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Cannabis Extract Fights ‘Incurable Form’ of Leukemia

Publié le 2 Mai 2014

A remarkable case report documents a 14-year old girl who, after 34-months of chemo, radiation and bone marrow transplant treatments, was given up for dead. Her family discovered research on cannabis extract, and before she died of a secondary complication of her original treatment, used it successfully to put her leukemia into remission.

There are plenty of anecdotal reports of the successful use of cannabis in treating cancer, but few cases occur under conventional medical supervision, and virtually none make it into a peer-reviewed biomedical journal as a case report.

Remarkably, however, just such a case was reported in Case Reports in Oncology last year, and involved a 14-year girl diagnosed with a form of cancer of the white blood cells known as acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL).

Despite a high remission rate for ALL after 5 year of 94% in children and 30-40% in adults using conventional combination chemotherapy, this particular child was diagnosed with a very aggressive (i.e. conventional treatment resistant) form of ALL (positive for the Philadelphia chromosome mutation).

After undergoing a protracted series of unsuccessful conventional treatments over the course of 34 months – including a bone marrow transplant, aggressive chemotherapy and radiation therapy — the girl’s case was pronounced ‘incurable,’ with the patient’s hematologist/oncologist stating that she “suffers from terminal malignant disease,” expecting her condition to progress rapidly towards death.

Because the family received no other suggestions for treatment beyond palliative care, they decided to do research on their own, stumbling on a paper published in Nature Reviews: Cancer in 2003 titled, “Cannibinoids: Potential Anti-Cancer Agents,” which encouraged them to administer oral cannabinoid extracts to the patient. According to the case report:

“The family found promise in an organization known as Phoenix Tears, led by Rick Simpson who had treated several cancers with hemp oil, an extract from the cannabis plant. Rick worked with the family to help them prepare the extract.

With Rick Simpson’s assistance, the family used cannabis oil extract for the next 78 days, with regular monitoring of the blast cell count, the primary indicator of the malignant progression of the disease process.

The figure below shows the successful suppression of the blast cells using cannabis extract.

Clearly, the cannabis extract was effective at inhibiting the uncontrolled proliferation of the girl’s leukemia, without the highly toxic side effects of conventional treatment.

Sadly, however, on day 78, the 14-year old passed away as a consequence of bleeding associated with bowel perforation, and ultimately the lasting adverse effects of the original 34 months of aggressive treatment she had underwent previous to cannabis.

In the discussion portion of the case report, the authors noted,

“The results shown here cannot be attributed to the phenomenon of ‘spontaneous remission’ because a dose response curve was achieved… These results cannot be explained by any other therapies, as the child was under palliative care and was solely on cannabinoid treatment when the response was documented by the SickKids Hospital. The toxicology reports ruled out chemotherapeutic agents, and only showed her to be positive for THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) when she had ‘a recent massive decrease of WBC from 350,000 to 0.3’ inducing tumor lysis syndrome, as reported by the primary hematologist/oncologist at the SickKids Hospital.”

The study authors believe this therapy should be viewed as “polytherapy,” owing to the fact that a wide range of cannabinoids have been found within resinous extract, which demonstrate a variety of anti-cancer properties, e.g. anti-angiogenic, anti-proliferative, etc. They further acknowledged the potential for the profound superiority of cannabinoid therapy to conventional treatments:

“It must be noted that where our most advanced chemotherapeutic agents had failed to control the blast counts and had devastating side effects that ultimately resulted in the death of the patient, the cannabinoid therapy had no toxic side effects and only psychosomatic properties, with an increase in the patient’s vitality.”

For those looking for additional research on the anti-cancer and related health properties of cannabinoids, use our database on cannabis or download our cannabis research pdf. For additional research on potential therapeutic interventions for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) view our ALL research database.

Cannabis Extract Fights 'Incurable Form' of Leukemia

Cannabinoids and chemotherapy in combination kill cancer cells

A new study confirms that cannabinoids, which are a class of active chemicals in cannabis, can successfully kill leukemia cells. They also find that the combination of chemicals and the order in which they are given is important. The findings will, no doubt, open the door to more effective treatments.

Share on Pinterest Cannabinoids may hold the key to effective leukemia treatment.

Cannabinoids, also known as phytocannabinoids, act as cannabinoid receptors in the brain. The most well known of these chemicals, and one of the most psychoactive, is tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).

To date, there have been more than 100 cannabinoids identified, all with different properties and chemical profiles.

And, over recent years, the potential anti-cancer effects of cannabinoids have come into focus.

Laboratory and animal studies have demonstrated that certain cannabinoids inhibit tumor growth by promoting cell death, reducing cell growth, and blocking the development of blood vessels that supply the tumor.

For instance, cannabinoid delta-9-THC can damage or kill liver cancer cells. Similarly, cannabidiol is effective against estrogen receptor positive and estrogen receptor negative breast cancer cells, without damaging healthy tissue.

A number of cannabinoids have also been shown to successfully fight leukemia cells. Leukemia is a cancer of bone marrow and other blood-forming organs.

Earlier research found that some of these chemicals, when used in combination, become even more potent killers of cancerous cells.

A new study, published recently in the International Journal of Oncology, explored these combinations in more depth. They also looked at the potential use of cannabinoids in conjunction with the existing chemotherapy drugs cytarabine and vincristine.

The researchers were led by Dr. Wai Liu at St George’s, University of London in the United Kingdom. Studying cancer cells in the laboratory, the team tested various combinations of cannabinoids and chemotherapy drugs to find the most effective groupings. They also tried to understand whether or not the order that the chemicals were given in would make a difference to success rates.

They found that cannabidiol and THC, when used alone, killed leukemia cells. However, when used in conjunction, their potency was significantly improved; the whole is more than the sum of the parts.

They also showed that an initial dose of chemotherapy followed by cannabinoids improved overall outcomes against the leukemia cells. Combining chemotherapy with cannabinoids provided better results than giving chemotherapy alone, or the combination of cannabidiol and THC. However, this increased potency was only seen if the cannabinoids were given after the chemotherapy, and not the other way around.

It is hoped that, in the future, these types of findings will improve the effectiveness of leukemia treatment, as well as cancer treatment at large. It is also hoped that they will reduce the impact of chemotherapy treatment on the patient.

Currently, the side effects from chemotherapy can be severe; they include hair loss, mouth sores, nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, and an increased risk of infection. Using cannabinoids could potentially allow clinicians to reduce the dose of chemotherapy while retaining its anti-cancer abilities.

“ We have shown for the first time that the order in which cannabinoids and chemotherapy are used is crucial in determining the overall effectiveness of this treatment. […] Cannabinoids are a very exciting prospect in oncology.”

Dr. Wai Liu

The results are promising. It seems that the weight of evidence supporting the effectiveness of cannabinoids against cancer cells has tipped the balance. As Dr. Liu says, the focus is now on establishing the “the best ways that they should be used to maximize a therapeutic effect.”

Dr. Liu is also quick to note that, “These extracts are highly concentrated and purified, so smoking marijuana will not have a similar effect.”

Certain chemicals in cannabis have a potent leukemia-fighting prowess. New research shows that the key to killing cancer is the combination and order.