Editorials | Issues
|Could Legalizing Marijuana in California Help Cure Breast Cancer?|
Mary Jane Borden - AlterNet
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October 27, 2010
For 70 years, we've been taught that marijuana has no accepted medical use and that its high potential for abuse demands absolute prohibition. Medical research has been nearly impossible since obtaining the substance for legitimate studies is restricted by the federal government.
But for a moment, forget the anti-drug ads of stoned teenagers passing the bong and click instead on the National Library of Medicine's website, "Pubmed.gov." Look under "breast cancer and cannabinoid" and you will find studies in scientific journals like Breast Cancer Research and Treatment that should warrant immediate action: "Our data demonstrate the efficacy of CBD in pre-clinical models of breast cancer. The results have the potential to lead to the development of novel non-toxic compounds for the treatment of breast cancer metastasis…"
A study in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics says, "These results indicate that CB1 and CB2 receptors could be used to develop novel therapeutic strategies against breast cancer growth and metastasis." And this from the journal Molecular Cancer: "these results provide a strong preclinical evidence for the use of cannabinoid-based therapies for the management of ErbB2-positive breast cancer." What's more, this basic research also extols the safety of potential cannabinoid therapies.
The science behind these studies finds that the human body contains its own internal system interrelated with molecules in the cannabis plant—AKA marijuana. A neurological signaling structure called the endocannabinoid system is now known to govern numerous bodily processes like appetite, pain, and even the birth of new brain cells. Cannabinoid receptors, called CB1 and CB2, are located in various cell membranes and activated by the body's own cannabinoid molecules (endocannabinoids), as well as those unique to the cannabis plant (THC, CBD) and synthetically-derived cannabinoids like Marinol®.
And now, the latest research is proving that cannabinoids, as part of this bodily system, play a mitigating role in breast cancer.
Breast cancer is a frightening diagnosis that will confront about 1 in 8 American women this year. Some 40,000 will die from it. An unusual lump in a breast can grow through four increasingly incurable stages and sometimes into other tissue. Therapies involve invasive surgery, heavy radiation, and toxic chemotherapy. Current anti-cancer drugs may kill cancer cells, but they also destroy non-cancerous tissue and damage heart muscle. Intractable nausea and vomiting comprise just one side effect. The disease may be worse than the cure but the cure can also kill.
But suppose some scientist has just come out of the jungle with an unknown plant that holds this much promise. It would be featured in the nightly news and on the front page of every newspaper. Well, we now have before us scientific clues that seem to point toward a revolution in breast cancer treatment, yet the government still manages to bury this amazing discovery.
Why? Politics. The "Devil Weed" has always been a favorite target for tough-on-crime politicians. Over the decades, they have assembled a labyrinth of governmental agencies with multi-billion dollar budgets that enforce marijuana laws, ignore the science, thwart clinical research—and constantly reinforce anti-pot stereotypes.
In the 70 years since Congress relegated marijuana to the dungeon of dangerous drugs, several administrative petitions have been filed to reclassify the herb and numerous lawsuits have challenged the U.S. Government's monopoly control over cannabis supply, yet even the few that made it to the Supreme Court failed to dislodge the federal government's iron grip on policy. While medicinal use of marijuana is now legal in 14 states, none except California ventures into research, even though opinion polls find rising public support that now includes organizations like the American College of Physicians.
While we dither, the clock is ticking for the 207,000 women expected to be diagnosed with breast cancer this year alone. How much longer must those facing this disease wait for the federal labyrinth to sort out this issue?
There has to be a way to accelerate the clinical trials that will develop promising cannabinoid-based breast cancer treatments. Something simultaneously immediate, attention-getting, and policy-changing. Something that brings this issue to the fore, that can't be ignored, and hasn't been tried before.
Could legalizing marijuana in California help cure breast cancer?
Mary Jane Borden is a former marketing analyst for largest U.S. marketer of cancer chemotherapy drugs in the U.S. during the 1980s. She is now Business Manager for the non-profit DrugSense/MAP and Editor of the publication and website, Drug War Facts.