Evidence: Cannabinoid Therapy Reduces Breast Cancer Tumors


Graphic: Mendo News

​Welcome to Room 420, where your instructor is Mr. Ron Marczyk and your subjects are wellness, disease prevention, self actualization, and chillin’.

Worth Repeating

By Ron Marczyk, R.N.
Health Education Teacher (Retired)

This one is personal. My wife of 32 years was diagnosed with breast cancer in the past year and subsequently underwent a double mastectomy. We are in the final stages of breast reconstruction. She has undergone five operations in the last 12 months, with one more to go.

We were very lucky. The cancer was starting to spread, but it was found early and was cured by surgery alone; no radiation or chemotherapy. We were told by our oncologist that we were among the very few breast cancer patients he has seen who did not require any follow-up treatments.

Photo: NORML Blog

​We were spared chemo and radiation treatment after surgery; we dodged the bullet. But what about the other breast cancer patients in the hospital with us with the same diagnosis who were not so lucky? Or perhaps without medical insurance, or with no job?
Life, always, is ultimately about survival, and they were going to travel further down the cancer road. How would they survive?
We went through the emotional stages of fear that the individual, the couple, the family, and close friends experience when you get a diagnosis of cancer. A common experience among those going through their diagnosis and treatment plan is to look for medical alternatives — hell, anything that may save my life, I’m going to check it out!
Warning: Many alternative treatments are shams with zero proof. Most alternatives make claims that are not backed up by any evidence or hard empirical medical studies, are are not peer-reviewed. 
Peer review means your study and its claims will be vetted by a panel of the best doctors and other medical professionals in that field, for critical review. They will try to find fault in its methodology before publication and its recommendations for possible human treatment.
For any cannabis-based study strong enough to stand up to this critical review, and for it to be published in a major journal within such a field as cancer research, is incredible. That’s exactly how strong the evidence for cannabis medicine is starting to become.
Imagine that. This plant, this “great friend of humanity” which has helped us survive by giving early humans food, fuel, fiber and medicine, and who ancient healers wrote about in 6000 B.C., more than 8,000 years ago, is now coming back to prove itself and to help save us again.
And this time we are starting to find the evidence to back up the claims made for this plant over the centuries. It may be too early, but it seems that 2010-2020 will be the medical “decade of the cannabinoid.” We are off to a great start.
There are many great studies out there, and they are starting to become more frequent, but many are only published in medical journals which the public does not even know exist, and would have a hard time understanding. In addition, it doesn’t make it past media filters unless there is money to be made.
My mission is to be a compassionate teacher to our green culture and free your mind with knowledge.
Mad respect to all. Give praise to Jah!

Cannabinoids Reduce ErbB2-Driven Breast Cancer Progression Through Akt Inhibition
Published in Molecular Cancer, July 2010
Main Findings: THC-based medicine, when used as an experimental drug of treatment, significantly reduced breast cancer tumor growth, tumor numbers, induces cancer cell suicide (called apoptosis), and stopped the breast cancer cells from spreading to the lungs.
A very specially genetically bred mouse (MMTV-neu) that makes human-like breast tissue was used. This animal is the gold standard that is used and recognized in all breast cancer research because its genes have been changed and instructed to grow the same type of aggressive breast cancer tissue.
Also, these mice/clones are all identical to each other in every way, which allows for tight experimental controls. These mouse experiments speed up research, because humans are not involved, only their diseased tissue.
The results of this study provide strong preclinical evidence for use of cannabinoid-based therapies for the number one, hard to treat, aggressive, ErbB2 driven breast cancer, which makes up 30 percent of all breast cancer cases and causes the most deaths in women.
Advanced ErbB2 driven breast cancer typically spreads to the lungs and has a poor outcome for survival with existing conventional treatments used presently. A new, novel treatment idea was desperately needed to find a (non-toxic?) effective new medicine to be a game changer.
Vocabulary you need to understand this lesson:
The ErbB2 receptor (stands for “human epidermal growth factor receptor 2”) is an “antenna” that sits on the outside of the breast cell. Its job is to pick up signals from hormones that instruct the cell to turn on a function inside the cell, such as keep growing and keep dividing. The ErbB2 gene behaves the same way in uterine and stomach cancer, and the same cannabinoid pathway could potentially be used.
Akt 1 is a gene found in breast cell DNA that keeps breast cells alive by instructing the cell to continue to make proteins inside itself. These proteins are the building blocks that allow the cell to keep building itself and keeps it alive by maintaining its structure.
Apoptosis is literally “programmed cell death.” As cells age and can no longer carry on their functions they are genetically programmed to die when they reach the end of their life cycle to make room for newer, younger cells. The Akt 1 gene blocks apoptosis — this programmed death signal — from turning on and promotes continued cell survival. If the Akt 1 gene’s functions can be blocked in a cell, that starts the “programmed cell death” command to be executed. If this happens in many cancer cells, the cancer tumor starts to shrink. The Akt 1 gene has been implicated as a major factor in many types of cancer.
When a lump is discovered in a breast, and a tissue biopsy sample is sent to pathology, the pathology report guides the course of the treatment. It tells the cancer tumor’s size, if it has spread or is stable, if it is hormone-receptor positive or negative, and most importantly its ErbB2 receptor count.
About 30 percent of newly diagnosed breast cancer samples will come back from pathology as “ErbB2 / over expression.” Over expression means that the DNA which you were born with, and which is the “build blueprint” for breast tissue, has a genetic defect in its code, and, say, instead of building 100 ErbB2 receptors, it builds 10,000 ErbB2 receptors. This means that when the signal is sent by Akt 1 to grow and build more proteins, the breast tissue is overstimulated, because there are too many ErbB2 receptors built into the cell’s membrane.
Too many signals to grow are sent into the internal machinery inside the cell, the ErbB2 receptors “over-receive and over-send the signal” and may cause normal cells to form cancer or to stimulate any single cancer cells that exist also to grow and multiply out of control and form a tumor over tim
The present drug treatment for ErbB2 driven breast cancer is a drug called Herceptin. This is the trade name under which it is sold; trastuzumab is the generic pharmaceutical name.
Herceptin was originally developed in mice, as a mouse antibody. Because humans have immune reactions to mouse proteins, it was later developed into a humanized antibody. Because the antibodies were produced from one cell that was grown into a clone of identical cells, it is called a monoclonal antibody.
This drug was developed using the same MMTV-neu mouse model as THC was, as described above.
The original studies of trastuzumab showed that it improved survival in late-state (metastatic) breast cancer, but there is controversy over whether trastuzumab is effective in earlier stage breast cancer. Trastuzumab is also controversial because of its cost, as much as $100,000 per year, and while certain private insurance companies in the U.S. and government health systems in Canada, the U.K. and elsewhere have refused to pay for trastuzumab for “certain patients” (code for the poor), some companies have since accepted trastuzumab treatment as covered, preventative treatment.
Think about that: $100,000 for one year of treatment per patient! Let’s see: A thousand patients times $100,000 = $100 million! Ten thousand patients times $100,000 = $1 billion. It’s so expensive that even the U.S. government doesn’t want to pay for it. Somebody, somewhere, is making a lot of money.
Now do you know why cannabis isn’t being researched as a cure? Do you see why some would have a vested interest in stopping it?
Oh, I left out one important fact: Trastuzumab only has a 25 to 30 percent successful rate of cure! And nearly 15 percent of people treated eventually develop new metastases. This drug’s cure rates are no better than the effect of a placebo!
When an experiment is conducted, the new drug being tested has to outperform the “placebo effect” to show it works. The new drug should be in at least the 40 percent range to show its effectiveness. In this case, it failed to do that — yet it is still being prescribed as a main, go-to treatment at $100,000 per year per breast cancer patient.
What happens if you have no health insurance or a job? Is this a crime? You tell me… And cannabis is still illegal?!
Note: About 10 percent of patients are unable to tolerate trastuzumab because of pre-existing heart problems. It causes the heart to pump out less blood volume, leading to congestive heart failure.
The Experiment
A colony of MMTV-neu mice was allowed to mature, and after 36 weeks, 50 percent of the females developed breast cancer.
A sample of 87 grade 3 invasive breast ductal carcinomas in which the cancer had spread to the lungs was chosen to be treated with THC. In the experimental groups, THC-treated mice had fewer and smaller (by weight and size) tumor counts after 90 days of treatment, as documented by microscopic tissue analysis.
Key Findings
“Our results show that down regulation of Akt is involved in cannabinoid anti-tumoral acteion.” When THC down regulated the ArK 1 gene, this “shut down signal” to the ArK 1 gene by THC appears to trigger apoptosis in the ErbB2-driven cancer; “programmed cell death” is executed and the cancer kills itself.
Remember, this is only a phase one study. This effect still needs to be proven in humans. However:
• Akt over-activation has been detected in a significant percentage of primary human breast cancers. THC plays a role in its regulation.
• The cancer growth in humans and the mice is near identical in both cases.
• Treatment with cannabinoids significantly decreased tumor growth, size, and numbers due to the “remarkable growth-inhibitory effects of cannabinoids.”
• THC reduced tumors from growing new blood vessels to feed themselves (anti-angiogenic).
• THC decreased the number of tumors spreading to nearby tissue and the lungs. This was also observed in advance cancer that had spread to the lungs already.
• “Remarkably, this is, to the best of our knowledge, the first report suggesting that cannabinoids hamper not only tumor growth but also tumor generation.”
• “Our data suggest that the endocannabinoid system has a physiological protective role against tumorigenesis, in line with the general idea that this system contributes to maintain homeostasis in health and disease.”
My Opinion
Possible multi-cancer cure? Check!
Possible non-toxic treatment? Check!
Can be organically grown and baked into bars/candies to be eaten (no smoking)? Check!
Cost? It’s near free. Check!
Thousands of proud Americans with cancer TODAY willing to sign up in non-biased studies? Check!
We the American taxpayers may potentially stand to save BILLIONS in health care and prescription drugs? Check!
Possibly create a new industry in America based on putting people back to work? Check!
Restoring the Earth and all its inhabitants to a state of non-greed and a direct way of showing the compassion we talk so much about? Check!
Is cannabis ready for for prime time? Let’s find out. A total of 1,437,180 new cancer cases and 565,650 deaths from cancer were projected to occur in the United States in 2008. How about we ask these people’s opinions on cannabis?
Cancer will turn alarmingly deadly in the future. The number of deaths due to this dreaded disease will double in number by 2030 according to the cancer research agency of the World Health Organization.
According to the report, 13.3 million lives will be in danger by 2030, which is almost double the figure of 7.6 million deaths from the illness in 2008.
The latest estimate by the International Agency for Research on Cancer has calculated that in 2030, fresh cases of cancer would rise to 21.3 million, and around 13.3 million people would die from the disease.
According to the current data, the two most common types of cancer are lung cancer and breast cancer.
By the way, about 40 percent of you who are reading this statistically will die from cancer; it’s just not your turn yet. Fight for your natural rights while you have the strength to do so. Sorry for the tough love, but that’s what teachers do.
When the Dalai Lama was asked, “If there is no God, who is worshipped in Buddhism; what then do you worship?”
He answered, “Kindness.”
A Word of Caution
Cancer and cancer cells in general are extremely resilient and there is rarely, if ever, one single occasion or event that causes a normal cell population to become cancerous. Rather it is a combination of events taking place at several levels ranging from the DNA to the post-trarnslational (specific modifications that occur on proteins and change their activity, where they go in the cells, which other proteins they interact with, etc.) and everything in between.
Furthermore, there is no silver bullet that can treat cancer, since there are so many things that go haywire, including suppression of the immune reaction, anaerobic respiration, increased protein production, ener
gy consumption, disregard for signals to stop proliferating, secretion of growth factors, up regulation of some receptors, loss of function of other receptors, evasion of apoptosis, and many other events.
THC has a positive effect, as stated in this study, but is not the answer on its own. Understanding the complexity of all these events and, unfortunately, the length of time it takes to study and understand them in order to then come up with solutions that can address as many of these issues as possible, is measured in years and often decadces.
Discuss all your medical decisions and treatment in partnership with your M.D. Remember: the person who treats himself has a fool for a patient.
Editor’s note: Ron Marczyk is a retired high school health education teacher who taught Wellness and Disease Prevention, Drug and Sex Ed, and AIDS education to teens aged 13-17. He also taught a high school International Baccalaureate psychology course. He taught in a New York City public school as a Drug Prevention Specialist. He is a Registered Nurse with six years of ER/Critical Care experience in NYC hospitals, earned an M.S. in cardiac rehabilitation and exercise physiology, and worked as a New York City police officer for two years. Currently he is focused on how evolutionary psychology explains human behavior.