Latest Cannabis Research Update: Bladder Cancer, Israeli Studies and Anti-Tumour Properties

The Economist:

If (Marijuana) were unknown, its discovery would no doubt be hailed as a medical breakthrough. Scientists would praise its potential for treating everything from pain to cancer and marvel at its rich pharmacopoeia; many of whose chemicals mimic vital molecules in the human body.

Well said. If marijuana weren’t tarnished by its ability to make people happy, and its subsequent criminal underpinnings, we would be enjoying all of its favorable qualities, including treating stubborn diseases which modern medicine is tripping over to find cures.

In a previous segment I discussed the miraculous cannabis-cures of several patients with a deadly form of brain cancer called glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). In this segment I will update the reader on some of the latest political moves, cannabis research on cancer and other diseases across the globe.


First on the American front we have a tiny bit of respectable news. In a 180 turnaround President Obama announced the intention to scrap one of the three titanic impediments to clinical investigations of marijuana in the US.

In 2015 Obama ordered that the US Public Health Service (PHS) is no longer needed for approval of research using cannabis on human subjects. Cannabis activists are rejoicing that researchers have one less hurdle to jump over.

In a bold and welcomed move Obama has eliminated one-third of the monolithic obstruction to marijuana research in this country. Previously clinicians had to receive approval from three government institutions before granting permission to use pot for human studies; historically all three, the FDA, the DEA and the USPHS, must rubber stamp applications for ANY study using medical cannabis.

Calling them redundant the Department of Health and Human Services reported the committee’s conclusions which:

…will help facilitate further research to advance our understanding about the health risks and any potential benefits of medications using marijuana or its components or derivatives.
By removing this boat anchor researchers think it will significantly improve the glacial turnaround times which can take years for application approval involving human and animal studies using marijuana.

There are still two huge roadblocks in place however. They are the FDA and the DEA. Both have been accused of having a “culture of criminology” and derailing research attempts using cannabis in treating human illnesses. All three have been known to drag out applications for years.


Meanwhile, last year the FDA granted Insys Pharmaceuticals orphan drug status to its pharmaceutical cannabidiol (CBD), for the treatment of glioblastoma multiforme (GBM). Glioblastoma multiforme is the most common and aggressive form of malignant primary brain tumor.

Orphan drug status has already been granted to Insys using their pharmaceutical CBD for treating Dravet syndrome (a rare form of intractable epilepsy that commences in infancy) and Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (a rare form of pediatric epilepsy).[ref]( 10/12/2015[/ref]

The company is looking into other applications which include adult epilepsy, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy and addiction in cocaine, amphetamines and opioids. Insys expects to seek orphan drug status for these additional indications if they qualify.

Orphan drug status grants pharmaceutical companies special financial incentives to develop the drug. This can only be good news as it furthers progression of much needed clinical trials using marijuana or one of its phytocannabinoids.



Once again if you are looking for human research using cannabis Israel is a good starting point. Hadassah Medical Organization has a new study proposed.

The Study: Pure CBD as Single-agent for Solid Tumor. In the application they state:

Increasing lines of evidence support an antitumourigenic effect of cannabinoids, including the cannabidiol (CBD) which does not posses [sic] the psychotropic effects of D9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). These include anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects and they are known to interfere with several mechanisms in the tumorgenesis. Yet, evidence from clinical trials among cancer patients is needed. The aim of the current study is to evaluate the impact of CBD as single treatment among cancer patients.

The study is still in its infancy and not yet open for participant recruitment. More on the status of this trial as things progress.


Another study was recently published and reported on in the Israeli daily Haaretz. It involved a preliminary study conducted by Israeli scientists who have discovered that cannabis may help slow the growth of certain cancerous tumors, even eliminating them completely.

The Israeli study was published this year (2015) by the cannabis friendly Israel Institute of Technology known as Technion. The main author Dr Meiri organized an on-going experiment involving 50 different Israeli-produced varietals of cannabis and over 200 cancer cell lines.

Dr. David Meiri, assistant professor in the biology department at the Technion, is leading the research team. The project began a year ago and is focused on the cytoskeleton and cell division in healthy and cancerous cells.

Dr Meiri:

There is a large body of scientific data which indicates that cannabinoids specifically inhibit cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death,…In addition to active cannabinoids, cannabis plants also contain a multitude of other therapeutic agents, such as terpenoids and flavonoids that are usually present in small quantities, but can have beneficial therapeutic effects, especially as synergistic compounds to cannabinoids.[ref]( 10/11/2015[/ref]

Meiri and his team are documenting the cancer killing effects of cannabis preparations on brain tumors with fascinating results. They are witnessing marijuana’s ability to induce programmed cell death in cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. They have found similar effects on breast cancer cell lines.


Back in America researchers at Kaiser Permanente in California published their findings regarding marijuana smoking and its relationship to bladder cancer. What they found was very interesting.
By analyzing their impressively large database of patients researchers uncovered a curious association. They found that pot smokers were 45% less likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer than patients who did not smoke at all.

It’s very exciting because bladder cancer is hard to treat,” said Anil Thomas, MD, a urologist at the Southern California Permanente Medical Group. But he cautioned that the study does not prove that smoking marijuana prevents bladder cancer, and more research is needed to explore the connection.[ref]( 10/18/2015[/ref]

Dr Thomas presented his findings at the American Urological Association annual scientific meeting in 2013.

Dr Thomas: we know that tobacco smoking is the best established risk factor for bladder cancer, Dr. Thomas told reporters attending a news conference. But to date, there are no epidemiologic studies accurately characterizing the association between cannabis use and bladder cancer.

They analyzed over 82 thousand patient files from 2002-2003. Participants were between 45-69 years old. Here’s what they found:







In all, 41% reported using cannabis, 57% reported using tobacco, and 27% reported using both. As predicted those who only used tobacco had an increased risk for bladder cancer.

Even more interesting is what happens to those who smoke both tobacco and marijuana. Those who partook of both had the same risk as those who used neither. Those that only smoked pot enjoyed a hugely significant decrease in risk for bladder cancer.

It appears that pot may offer some sort of protection from the toxicity of tobacco. This is not the first time I have seen this protective effect. We see it also in lung cancer studies with pot smokers where pot protects the lungs from the combustion products of tobacco.

Remember that these observations show associations and not causations. Therefore we cannot say with confidence that pot “caused” a reduction in bladder cancer. For that we’ll need further research but once again the epidemiology certainly looks good.

Dr. Thomas told Medscape Medical News that he first got interested in exploring this topic while doing some laboratory work in which he exposed prostate cancer cells and bladder cancer cells to cannabis.

“The prostate cancer cells did not show an effect and the bladder cancer cells were devastated,” he said.[ref]IBID[/ref]

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