Breast cancer is a disastrous disease that affects the lives of patients and families in all parts of the world.
Breast cancer remains the most common malignancy among Western women and accounts for 22.9% of all cancers in women across the globe. In 2008, breast cancer was reported as the cause of over 450,000 deaths worldwide.
Cannabinoids and Cancer
Although the medical properties of cannabis were first documented by human civilization over a thousand years ago, the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids – the medical compounds found in cannabis in the treatment of cancer has only been discovered recently. Since the late 1990s, numerous preclinical studies have demonstrated the antitumor effects of cannabinoids in a variety of cancers.
Studies show that cannabinoid receptors are over-expressed in the tumor cells of certain cancers, such as cancers of the liver, lung, prostate and breast. Thus, researchers have been led to believe that the endocannabinoid system may be up-regulated in cancer in an innate biological effort to fight off this disease.
Studies also show that when cannabinoids are administered and bind to these receptors, they are able to inhibit cancer cell growth by preventing the proliferation of cancer cells and by inducing cancer cell death (apoptosis). Furthermore, cannabinoids have been found to impair both tumor angiogenesis – the increase in localized blood flow induced by tumor cells – and metastasis – the spreading of cancer to other organs.
Cannabinoids and Breast Cancer
While medical advancements in breast cancer have progressed in recent decades, certain breast tumors continue to be resistant to conventional treatments. Breast cancer is comprised of tumors that are distinct in their molecular profiles, leading medical professionals to categorize the disease into 3 main subtypes.
Research suggests that synthetic cannabinoids and phytocannabinoids (mainly THC and CBD) may be useful in treating all 3 subtypes of breast cancer, with the strongest evidence of therapeutic potential pointing to treatment of HER2-positive and triple-negative breast tumors. The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids is particularly important for patients with triple-negative breast cancer, as there is no standard therapy that currently exists and prognosis for this group of patients is poor.
In addition to their anti-cancer effects, research also shows that cannabinoids are considerably safer and less toxic than conventional treatments. Cannabinoids are non-toxic to non-tumor cells and are well tolerated by patients – only eliciting relatively mild side-effects such as dizziness and fatigue.
“This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects.” – Dr. Sean McAllister
In 2007, Dr. Sean McAllister and his team of researchers were one of the first to discover that CBD’s cancer-fighting properties could be successfully applied to breast cancer.
Clinical Applications: The Current State
In a recent update (2013) published in the Oncology Nursing Forum, associate editor Susan Weiss Behrend concluded:
“…cannabinoids have demonstrated antitumor activity in preclinical breast cancer models. Practising oncology professionals need to be aware of the clinical potential of these agents…” – Susan Weiss Behrend, RN
Anandamide inhibits human breast cancer cell proliferation
Inhibition of Human Breast and Prostate Cancer Cell Proliferation1
Antitumor Activity of Plant Cannabinoids
9-Tetrahydrocannabinol Inhibits Cell Cycle Progression in Human Breast Cancer
Cannabidiol inhibits tumour growth in leukaemia and breast cancer
THC and prochlorperazine effective in reducing vomiting in women following breast surgery
Cannabidiol Dramatically Inhibits Breast Cancer Cell Growth
“Medical Marijuana” Takes On New Meaning for Metastatic Breast Cancer
Cannabidiol may be helpful in reducing the aggressiveness of breast cancer cells
JunD is involved in the antiproliferative effect of Delta(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol on human breast cancer cells
Cannabis Compound May Stop Metastatic Breast Cancer