It’s no secret that many cancer patients are using cannabis oil to help manage pain, fatigue, nausea, and other side effects of chemotherapy. Less standard is that the undeniable fact that in depth diagnosing analysis shows that plant cannabinoids — most notably, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) – produce antitumor responses in various animal models of cancer.
The vast majority of this preclinical study has investigated the anticancer activity of pure compounds, mainly THC isolates. But Rick Simpsons Oil patients aren’t using pure, single-molecule THC to battle cancer. Instead, they are consuming whole plant cannabis oil extracts that include hundreds of compounds, many of which also have therapeutic properties.
However, few rigorous studies have analyzed the results of whole plant cannabis extracts. So a team of Spanish researchers, led by Cristina Sanchez at Complutense University in Madrid, decided to compare the efficacy of pure THC isolates and THC-rich oil extracts in a series of preclinical experiments that focused on breast cancer. (The oil extracts were provided by Aunt Zelda’s, a California-based cannabis oil producer.) The researchers also examined the effects of pure THC and an artisanal THC-rich oil formulation when each was combined with standard chemotherapy drugs.
Their findings were reported in a 2018 article – “Appraising the ‘Entourage Effect’: Antitumor action of a pure cannabinoid versus a botanical drug preparation in preclinical models of breast cancer” – which was published in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology. The phrase “entourage effect” in this context refers to the full-spectrum synergistic interplay between numerous cannabis compounds – cannabinoids, terpenes and flavonoids – that impart a therapeutic impact that’s greater than the sum of the plant’s individual components.
Spoiler alert: each tetrahydrocannabinol and therefore the artisanal THC-rich oil were shown to own antitumoral properties, but the oil worked better than the THC isolate for three different breast cancer subtypes.
TRICKY TO TREAT
It is estimated that one in eight women can develop breast cancer. Breast cancer is tricky to treat because there are few biomarkers that signal when someone has the disease, and many patients show or develop resistance to current therapies. Besides, several specific types of breast cancer respond poorly to modern treatment. These difficulties underscore the importance of exploring new treatments for breast cancer.
Two biomarkers frequently used to diagnose breast cancer are hormonal receptors (the estrogen receptor and progesterone receptor) and the HER2 oncogene (a gene which can transform a normal cell into a tumour cell). But a additional aggressive malignancy, known as “triple-negative breast cancer,” doesn’t express hormonal receptors or the HER2 oncogene. No targeted therapy exists for triple-negative breast cancer, so patients are treated with harsh chemotherapies that indiscriminately kill proliferating cells, whether cancerous or not.
These 3 varieties of cancer – hormone-sensitive, HER2, and triple-negative – were used as models for “Appraising the entourage effect.”
In all models of breast cancer investigated, in vitro similarly as in vivo, the total plant extract was considerably more practical at manufacturing antitumour effects than single-molecule tetrahydrocannabinol. These results were largely consistent for the type of cancer and type of model. Researchers tested the compounds in cell cultures (Petri dishes) and in rodent models (mice).
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