No solid cannabis oil can ‘cure’ cancer

A post on Facebook, shared hundreds of times, claims that a “60 gram supply of cannabis oil” is “enough to treat a cancer patient”. It also includes an image of several plastic syringes which she claims contain cannabis oil, with the caption “Cancer Cure”.

While there is evidence some cannabis products may be beneficial for cancer patients, and research on this is ongoing, there is currently no evidence that cannabis oil can cure cancer.

Claims that cannabis products can cure cancer are ‘misleading’

The Facebook post does not provide any source for its claim that 60g of cannabis oil would be enough to treat a cancer patient, nor does it include any specific information about what types Where steps cancer could allegedly be treated with cannabis oil.

cannabis oil is extracted from the flowers, leaves and stems of the cannabis plant and, unlike CBD (Cannabidiol) which can legally be sold as a dietary supplement in the UK, often contains high levels of the psychoactive ingredient Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (commonly known as THC). Cannabis oil is therefore illegal United Kingdom.

Cancer Research UK, which describes himself as “supporting properly conducted scientific research on cannabis and its derivatives that may benefit cancer patients”, said“The current consensus is that at present there is insufficient evidence to prove that cannabis (or any of its active compounds or derivatives) can reliably treat any form of cancer, but the medical use of cannabis to treat chronic cancer-related pain is approved in the UK.

He also says, “Claims that there is strong ‘evidence’ that cannabis or cannabinoids can cure cancer are very misleading.”

Professor Edzard Ernst, Professor Emeritus at the University of Exeter, told Full Fact: “Cannabinoids have been shown to reduce the size of prostate cancers in animal models. Isolated case reports have given encouraging results also in human cancers, for example, acute lymphoblastic leukaemia.

“However, case reports cannot be considered reliable evidence, and there are currently no data from rigorous clinical trials to suggest that cannabis products will alter the natural history of any cancer.”

The image used in the post appears to have been originally written with an American audience in mind. The American Cancer Society states: “Currently, the United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) lists marijuana and its cannabinoids as Schedule I controlled substances.

“This means they cannot be legally prescribed, possessed, or sold under federal law. Whole or raw marijuana (including marijuana [cannabis] or hemp oil) is not approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for medical use.

“But using marijuana to treat certain medical conditions is legal under state law in many states.”

The FDA approved two cannabinoids for the treatment of nausea and vomiting caused by chemotherapy in patients who have failed to respond to other anti-disease treatments, but neither cannabis nor cannabinoid products have been approved as cancer treatments himself.

Cannabis products can be prescribed to cancer patients and more research is underway

Although cannabis products are not a proven ‘cure’ for cancer, the Cancer Research UK article goes on to state that there is ‘good evidence that cannabinoids may be beneficial in pain management cancer and the side effects of the treatment”.

Cannabinoids are the different substances or chemicals present in the resin extracted from cannabis plants. The two main cannabinoids are THC and CBD.

Macmillan Cancer Support said research has shown that cannabinoids can cause cell death, prevent cells from dividing, and prevent cells from developing blood vessels. However, research has also shown that cannabinoids can damage important blood vessels, encourage cancer cells to grow in certain situations, and make the immune system less effective.

Some cannabis products are already available on prescription for a small number of patients with specific diseases. Nabilonea synthetic cannabinoid taken in capsule form, may be prescribed to adults suffering from chemotherapy-induced nausea to treat their cancer.

Sativex, which is prescribed to some people with multiple sclerosis, is a cannabis-based medicine that vaporizes in the mouth. Researchers are looking for Sativex as a treatment for cancer-related symptoms and certain types of cancer.

Large scale clinical trials in the UK have found no difference in self-reported pain scores between treatment group and placebo group, but in Researchers 2021 conducting a small study of 27 patients with a specific type of brain tumor found that more participants who took Savitex in combination with the chemotherapy drug temozolomide were alive after one year (83%) compared to participants who received placebo (44%). But the small sample size means the study doesn’t prove the treatment was beneficial.

But experts pointed out that this study was too small to confirm the potential benefits of Savitex and was designed to determine if it was safe for patients to take it. It was reported in 2021 that the second phase of clinical trials would begin in 2022.

Cancer Research UK has also supported research in this area being carried out by other scientists such as Dr Laureano de la Vega from the University of Dundee who has explored the impact of CBD on the ability of cancer cells to spread and Professor Chris Paraskeva in Bristol who has studied the effect of cannabinoids on bowel cancer.

Image reproduced with the kind permission of Enecta cannabis extracts

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