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woman-with-cancer-in-hopital-bedCancer, also known as a malignant tumor or malignant neoplasm, is a disease in which abnormal cells divide without control and are able to invade other tissues. Cancer cells can spread to other parts of the body through the blood and lymph systems. The body is constantly producing healthy, normal cells, which multiply when the body needs them, and die when they are no longer needed. Cancer occurs when the growth of cells in the body is out of control and cells divide too quickly and mutate. It can also occur when cells forget how to die. These malignant cells can form tumors that then may spread to other parts of the body or tissue, causing organ failure and inhibiting the functions of the immune system – in some cases leading to complete collapse and fatality.

There are more than 100 different types of cancer, normally named after the organ or place in which they start as a tumor. For example: pancreatic, bone and brain cancer. Broader types of cancer are named after the type of tissue where the corruption originates: Carcinoma (cancer that begins in the skin or in tissues that line or cover internal organs), Sarcoma (connective tissue bone, fat, cartiledge) Leukemia (blood), Lymphoma and Myeloma (immune system) and Central Nervous System cancer (brain or spinal cord).

Worldwide there were estimated to be around 14.1 million new cases of cancer in 2012, with incidence rates varying across the globe. In the UK there were 331,000 cases of cancer in 2011 with 53% of those resulting in mortality. Cancer incidence rates in the UK have risen by 23% in males and by 43% in females since the mid-1970s. Survival rates vary with the different types of cancers. For instance both brain and pancreatic cancers have a far lower survival rate than breast cancer. Cancer is now is the number one fear for the British public, ahead of debt, knife crime, Alzheimer’s disease and the loss of a job.

Causes of cancer are multifactorial and can range widely with genetic makeup, environment, age, diet and intake of carcinogens. A carcinogen is any substance, radionuclide, or radiation that is an agent directly involved in causing cancer. They can be found in tobacco smoke, industrial cleaning products, aerosols and some processed foods. They have the ability to damage the genome and to disrupt cellular metabolic processes. There need to be a number of genetic mutations within a cell before it becomes cancerous. Sometimes a person is born with one of these mutations already, and the older we get the more prone we are to cancer, with a third of UK cases being in the over 75’s.

The immune system breaking down or being attacked by viruses can affect your body’s ability to produce cells, making cancer more likely. Diet, intake of alcohol and physicality can be contributing factors also.

Cancer can be treated with surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy, immunotherapy, diet and alternative therapies. Chemotherapy, the most common treatment, employs the use of chemical substances. These chemotherapeutic agents are cytotoxic, acting by killing cells that divide rapidly, one of the main properties of most cancer cells. This means that chemotherapy also harms cells that divide rapidly under normal circumstances: cells in the hair, digestive tract and bone marrow. This results in the most common side effects of chemotherapy: Myelosuppression (decreased production of white blood cells), Mucositis (inflammation of the lining of the digestive tract), and Alopecia (hair loss).

Radiotherapy uses ionizing radiation to kill malignant cells. Radiation therapy may be curative in a number of types of cancer if they are localized to one area of the body. It can be used to prevent tumor recurrence after surgery to remove a primary malignant tumor, for example: in the early stages of breast cancer.

Immunotherapy uses the immune system through vaccines to treat cancer. It can exploit the fact that cancer cells often have subtly different molecules on their surface that can be detected by the immune system. These molecules, known as antigens, are most commonly proteins but also include other molecules such as carbohydrates. Immunotherapy works by provoking the immune system into attacking tumor cells by using the cancer antigens as targets.

Surgery can be used for the removal of tumors both benign and malignant. This may be done either in conjunction or prior to conventional treatments (listed above).

Diet is becoming more acknowledged as a both a cause and a treatment for cancer. Diets with zero sugar or fructose (sugar is thought to accelerate tumor growth) and of vegetables are likely to be more beneficial than diets with processed food, red meat and large quantities of alcohol, which will destabilize the immune system. Alkaline diets have also been found to more beneficial in maintaining the bodies natural pH levels (close to water) and thus the functionality of the immune system in fighting cancer.

Alternative therapies can include homeopathy, holistic healing, herbal medicines and decarboxylated cannabis oil. All these treatments can be done individually or in conjunction with one another.

Medical Marijuana Efficacy

Cannabinoids, the active components of Cannabis Sativa and their derivatives exert palliative effects in cancer patients by preventing nausea, vomiting and by stimulating appetite. They also have been found in some cases to exert curative effects by causing cell death and tumor reduction. They occur naturally in all cannabis plants with up to currently 85 known separate cannabinoids in each plant. The two primary cannabinoids, Delta 9 Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and Cannabidiol (CBD), are the most effective in the treatment of cancer.

Cannabinoids come into effect by binding to cannabinoid receptors (found in all humans) which fuel the endocannabinoid system producing similar chemical compounds to the cannabinoids.

Official Research Reports

Toward the use of cannabinoids as antitumor agents (Guillermo Velasco, Cristina Sánchez and Manuel Guzmán, 2015)

The Antitumor Activity of Plant-Derived Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids (McAllister SD, Soroceanu L, Desprez PY, 2015)

A double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover pilot trial with extension using an oral mucosal cannabinoid extract for treatment of chemotherapy-induced neuropathic pain. (Lynch ME, Cesar-Rittenberg P, Hohmann AG, 2013)

Nabiximols for opioid-treated cancer patients with poorly-controlled chronic pain: a randomized, placebo-controlled, graded-dose trial. (Portenoy RK, Ganae-Motan ED, Allende S, Yanagihara R, Shaiova L, Weinstein S, McQuade R, Wright S, Fallon MT, 2012)

Spontaneous regression of septum pellucidum/forniceal pilocytic astrocytomas–possible role of Cannabis inhalation. (Foroughi M, Hendson G, Sargent MA, Steinbok P, 2011)

Multicenter, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled, parallel-group study of the efficacy, safety, and tolerability of THC:CBD extract and THC extract in patients with intractable cancer-related pain. (Johnson JR, Burnell-Nugent M, Lossignol D, Ganae-Motan ED, Potts R, Fallon MT, 2010)

A population-based case-control study of marijuana use and head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (Liang C, McClean MD, Marsit C, Christensen B, Peters E, Nelson HH, Kelsey KT, 2009)

Adjunctive nabilone in cancer pain and symptom management: a prospective observational study using propensity scoring. (Maida V, Ennis M, Irani S, Corbo M, Dolzhykov M, 2008)

Efficacy of dronabinol alone and in combination with ondansetron versus ondansetron alone for delayed chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. (Meiri E, Jhangiani H, Vredenburgh JJ, Barbato LM, Carter FJ, Yang HM, Baranowski V, 2007)

Medicinal cannabis does not influence the clinical pharmacokinetics of irinotecan and docetaxel. (Engels FK, de Jong FA, Sparreboom A, Mathot RA, Loos WJ, Kitzen JJ, de Bruijn P, Verweij J, Mathijssen R, 2007)

A pilot clinical study of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in patients with recurrent glioblastoma multiforme. (Guzmán M, Duarte MJ, Blázquez C, Ravina J, Rosa MC, Galve-Roperh I, Sánchez C, Velasco G, González-Feria L, 2006)

Cannabinoids in the Management of Intractable Chemotherapy-Induced Nausea and Vomiting and Cancer-Related Pain (Ian R. Sutton, MD, FRCPC, and Paul Daeninck, MD, MSc, FRCPC, 2006)

Effects of Smoked Cannabis and Oral ∆9-Tetrahydrocannabinol on Nausea and Emesis After Cancer Chemotherapy (Richard E. Musty, Rita Rossi, 2001)

Marijuana to prevent nausea and vomiting in cancer patients: a survey of clinical oncologists. (Schwartz RH, Voth EA, Sheridan MJ, 1997)

An efficient new cannabinoid antiemetic in pediatric oncology. (Abrahamov A, Abrahamov A, Mechoulam R, 1995)

Dronabinol and prochlorperazine in combination for treatment of cancer chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (Lane M, Vogel CL, Ferguson J, Krasnow S, Saiers JL, Hamm J, Salva K, Wiernik PH, Holroyde CP, Hammill S, 1991)

Nabilone versus prochlorperazine for control of cancer chemotherapy-induced emesis in children: a double-blind, crossover trial. (Chan HS, Correia JA, MacLeod SM, 1987)

Nabilone: an alternative antiemetic for cancer chemotherapy (Dalzell AM, Bartlett H, Lilleyman JS, 1986)

Antiemetic efficacy of levonantradol compared to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (Citron ML, Herman TS, Vreeland F, Krasnow SH, Fossieck BE Jr, Harwood S, Franklin R, Cohen MH, 1985)

Tetrahydrocannabinol vs. prochlorperazine. The effects of two antiemetics on patients undergoing radiotherapy (Ungerleider JT, Andrysiak TA, Fairbanks LA, Tesler AS, Parker RG, 1984)

Anti-emetic efficacy and toxicity of nabilone, a synthetic cannabinoid, in lung cancer chemotherapy (Ahmedzai S, Carlyle DL, Calder IT, Moran F, 1983)

A randomised multicentre single blind comparison of a cannabinoid anti-emetic (levonantradol) with chlorpromazine in patients receiving their first cytotoxic chemotherapy. (Hutcheon AW, Palmer JB, Soukop M, Cunningham D, McArdle C, Welsh J, Stuart F, Sangster G, Kaye S, Charlton D, 1983)

Cannabis and cancer chemotherapy: a comparison of oral delta-9-THC and prochlorperazine (Ungerleider JT, Andrysiak T, Fairbanks L, Goodnight J, Sarna G, Jamison K, 1982)

Comparative trial of the antiemetic effects of THC and haloperidol (Neidhart JA, Gagen MM, Wilson HE, Young DC, 1981)

Physiologic observations in a controlled clinical trial of the antiemetic effectiveness of 5, 10, and 15 mg of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol in cancer chemotherapy. Ophthalmologic implications. (Levitt M, Wilson A, Bowman D, Kemel S, Krepart G, Marks V, Schipper H, Thomson G, Weinerman B, Weinerman R, 1981)

Antiemetic effect of tetrahydrocannabinol. Compared with placebo and prochlorperazine in chemotherapy-associated nausea and emesis. (Orr LE, McKernan JF, Bloome B, 1980)

Double-blind comparison of the antiemetic effects of nabilone and prochlorperazine on chemotherapy-induced emesis (Steele N, Gralla RJ, Braun DW Jr, Young CW, 1980)

Effect of a nitrogen analog of tetrahydrocannabinol on cancer pain (Staquet M, Gantt C, Machin D, 1978)

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