Can Medical Cannabis Cure Breast Cancer?
According to HER2 Support Group, breast cancer is not a single disease – it is an umbrella term that is used for many different diseases. HER2-positive breast cancer is an aggressive type that forms when there is an over-expression of the HER2 gene.
HER2-positive breast cancer does not only grow rapidly, but it is often associated with a unfortunate prognosis and high recurrence rates. Though successful treatments have been designed to target the HER2 gene, research reports that they do not gather a response from everyone.
As we are aware of, cannabis has shown promise in treating a variety of cancers, and a Japanese study found cannabinoids to constrain tumour growth. Accordingly, breast cancer research has alos turned to medical cannabis in search for answers.
Spanish Researchers Treated Breast Cancer with Medical Cannabis
In 2010, a group of Spanish researchers published a study in the journal Molecular Cancer with the intention to establish whether cannabinoids could constitute a new therapeutic tool in the fight against HER2-positive breast cancer. They analysed the anti-tumour potential of THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and a synthetic cannabinoid with similar effects to CBD (cannabidiol).
In order to analyse every cannabinoid’s potential, the researchers investigated the effects on mice with a similar form of cancer – the Mouse Mammary Tumour Virus. In addition to mouse trials, the researchers also examined the effects of cannabis on 87 human breast tumours.
Per the study’s results, THC and CBD had several anti-cancer benefits in mice. Both cannabinoids investigated were found to constrain cancer growth, reduce the number of tumours, and reduce the number and the severity of metastases (secondary tumours in the lungs).
While studying the human cancer tissue, the researchers found that cannabinoids may constrain cell proliferation and induce programmed cell death, or aptosis. Per the study, cannabinoids also seem to “impair tumour angiogenesis,” which allows tumours to receive more nutrients by letting blood vessels grow.
One of the most relevant findings, according to the study, is that 91% of HER2-positive tumours actively express CB2 receptors. As we are aware of, both THC and CBD interact with CB2 receptors, and this might explain their interaction with breast cancer.
Additional research will be necessary before we can determine whether medical cannabis is an effective form of breast cancer treatment, but the results from the Spanish study are intriguing. Currently cannabis is used to counter nausea and other chemotherapy side effects, but evidence of its anti-cancer potential is evident. If scientifically proven to treat HER2-positive breast cancer, medical cannabis may replace chemotherapy as an effective follow-up to surgery.