An article by Maria Leonila Masculino on August 21, 2015 of Food World News is titled Cannabis Effects: U.S. Government Finally Admits Cannabis Kills Cancer Cells. The National Cancer Institute (NCI) has acknowledged that a formal study done in the U.K. has shown that components of marijuana have the ability to inhibit cancer growth and increase the efficacy of radiation treatments in the most aggressive form of brain tumors. The NCI has not determined that the study justifies the formal reclassification of marijuana to acknowledge its legitimate medical uses.
A group of scientists from St. George’s College in London concluded that cannabis weakens cancer cells in lab settings and appears to improve the effectiveness of radiation treatments when procedures are done to attack glioma, which is one of the most deadly and aggressive brain tumors.
The lead scientist in the study, Dr. Wai Liu, concluded that THC and CBD, two components of marijuana, may be of use in cancer treatment.
“We’ve shown that cannabinoids could play a role in treating one of the most aggressive cancers in adults. The results are promising… it could provide a way of breaking through glioma [tumors] and saving more lives.”
“Recent animal studies have shown that marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. Evidence from one animal study suggests that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can shrink one of the most serious types of brain tumours. Research in mice showed that these extracts, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation.”
Scientific American published an article on May 1, 2015 by Roni Jacobson titled Medical Marijuana: How the Evidence Stacks Up. With an opening statement that there are few legitimate studies, the Scientific American article downplays the significance of marijuana for medical use. Given the extreme limits on marijuana studies in the US, a lack of data is to be expected. The article goes on to provide information on where marijuana has proven to be of value, including cancer, epilepsy, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS, MS, and reduction of pain and inflammation.
The tone of the Scientific American article is comparable to those written to say that the use of herbs and supplements by Oriental medicine and Ayurvedic medicine lack data for safety and effectiveness, despite being used for 3,000 to 5,000 years. The majority of US scientific studies on drug safety and effectiveness are funded by US pharmaceutical manufacturers. The 2013 estimate for chemotherapy drugs in the US was $91 million, with an average patient cost for chemotherapy at about $10,000 per month. The Ohio State University dedicated a $1.1 billion James Cancer Hospital and Solove Research Institute in 2015.
Studies such as the one done at St. George’s will help justify the legalization of medical marijuana. The tax revenues achieved in Colorado and Washington from recreational marijuana sales will help legalize all uses of marijuana. Like same-gender marriages, the progress towards legalization is being driven at the state and local levels. Having expert studies such as the St. George’s study will put additional pressure on legalization.