A man named Rich Canci is selling cannabis as an option for cancer treatment. Having survived cancer six times, he says cannabis is the way. A lot of our doctors recognize the potential benefits of cannabis as a part of integrative therapy, but not as a cure in itself.
“Integrative therapy is when patients come to see me when they want to add alternative or complementary therapies to their conventional treatments,” says Dr. Junella Chin, an integrative cannabis specialist.READ MORE
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Killing cancer simply put by a biochemist, when THC connects to the CB1 or CB2 cannabinoid receptor site on the cancer cell, it induces an increase in ceramide synthesis that leads to cell death. A normal cell does not produce ceramide when it is near THC; therefore it is not affected by the cannabinoid. The reason the cancer cell dies is not because of the cytotoxic chemicals, but because there is a small shift in the mitochondria. The purpose of the mitochondria within a cell is to produce energy for the cell to use. As the ceramide is produced, it turns up the sphingolipid rheostat. This production increases the mitochondrial membrane permeability to cytochrome c, which is vital protein in energy synthesis. The cytochrome c is then pushed out of the mitochondria, which ultimately kills the source of energy for that particular cell. The presence of ceramide leaves no possibility of cancer cell survival. This is because it causes genotoxic stress in the cancer cell that generates a protein call p53, which disrupts the calcium metabolism in the mitochondria. Ceramide also disrupts the cell’s digestive system that produces nutrients for all cell function, and actively inhibits pro-survival pathways. The key to the cancer killing process is the accumulation of ceramide in the system. This means that by taking THC rich cannabis extract (with the minimum of 55% THC) ,at a steady rate over a period of time the patient will keep metabolic pressure on these cancer cell death pathways.
But Dr. Chin describes marijuana as more of a way to help with the pain and discomfort that can result from certain parts of cancer treatment.
For example, sometimes she treats patients who are experiencing pain due to chemotherapy. “A chemotherapy patient usually comes to see me if they have nausea, if they have decreased appetite, if they have pain, if they have insomnia, and if they’re depressed,” she says.
“Medical cannabis if you think about it, it’s the only botanical medicine, it’s the only plant-based medicine that can help nausea, increase appetite, decrease pain, and elevate mood,” Dr. Chin continues. “So I could in essence write four or five different prescription medications which a lot of physicians do, a lot of oncologists do, or we can try having the patient take one plant-based medicine first.”
Dr. Junella Chin on using marijuana to alleviate side effects of chemotherapy
When we’re talking about cannabis for relief during cancer treatment, it’s important to know that each patient is different based on their age, size, and medical history, and based on the other treatments they’ve undergone or are undergoing. Some alternative therapies can even come in the way of ongoing conventional treatments, causing them not to work or to work less effectively. That’s why it’s so important to talk to your oncologist before looking for any integrative therapies, including cannabis.
At Dr. Chin’s office, assessing the individual patient is the first step. “When a patient comes sees me through a referral through their oncologist or from a friend, word of mouth, the first step is to look at their medical records, do a full history and physical exam. You’re still assessing the patient as a regular physician’s visit,” says Dr. Chin.
“Then we talk about different medications that they’re on that might’ve worked, different medications that they’re on that might not have worked. Their lifestyle. Whether they’re still working, whether they’re at home, and we can recommend,” Dr. Chin continues. “We look at the patient’s medication list. We look at the patient’s lifestyle, and we decide and recommend a medical cannabis formulation that will work well for them.”
And researchers have been able to get some pretty specific data on marijuana substances and best practices using the plant. “In a state like New York where it’s very highly regulated we are measuring patient results and patient data through the milligrams of cannabis that they’re taking, and we know exactly what the composition of the medical cannabis plant has in these New York dispensaries,” Dr. Chin.
Dr. Junella Chin on how medical marijuana alleviates pain
“We know percentages of cannabinoids, percentages of terpenes, and how each patient might react differently,” Dr. Chin continues. “If I’m treating a child with cancer, versus treating a middle-aged man who is still working during chemotherapy and radiation, or an elderly patient that’s towards the end of their life and is at home resting.”