The People's Perspective on Medicine

More Details on Medical Marijuana for Cancer

A few days ago we received a fascinating message about the use of marijuana and a special dietary regimen for pancreatic cancer. At first we had some reservations about publishing this story. Pancreatic cancer is an especially hard-to-treat cancer and we do not want to create the impression that there is a magic bullet for this deadly disease. Nevertheless, there is some tantalizing and preliminary data that suggests marijuana may have some anti-cancer potential.

We decided to share his story. Not surprisingly, we heard from a lot of people who wanted more details. They are now available. After you read the Q&A below just click on the link to MORE DETAILS if you would like to get the rest of the story.


Q. I would like you to know about medical marijuana for cancer. In her late 30s, my wife was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, stage 4a. It was a 6 cm tumor that had grown around the hepatic artery and portal vein.

At first I thought marijuana was just for nausea caused by her chemo, but then I found a study in the journal Cancer Research (July 1, 2006). It showed that cannabinoids specifically fight pancreatic tumor cells.

I changed her diet and started her on a regimen and she is now cancer free. The regimen is being studied at the University of Wisconsin. I hope others can benefit from medical marijuana.

A. For years, marijuana research was suspected of being a way to rationalize people getting high. But as a recent article in Science News points out, scientists are now starting to take it seriously (June 19, 2010). The article you cite demonstrates that compounds from marijuana make pancreatic tumor cells commit suicide.

Other cancer researchers have followed up with studies on its effectiveness against a range of tumors in test tubes, including breast, colon, glioblastoma brain tumors and lymphoma, a blood cancer. None are yet in clinical trials, but this will be an interesting field to watch. We are delighted your wife got such a good response for such a difficult-to-treat cancer.

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    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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    Showing 11 comments
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    I have pancreatic cancer and heard that marijuana could be beneficial in shrinking the tumor.
    How is a patient assured that she is getting a high quality cannabis, the kind that has shown positive effects in shrinking the pancreatic tumor? Any information you can provide will be much appreciated.

    The pancreatic cancer is a malignant tumor of the pancreas. These tumors have a completely different diagnostic and therapeutic profile and generally a more favorable prognosis. Marijuana is effective.

    I appreciate your radio program so much.
    Research on non-psychoactive dietary cannabis as an immune system modulator is occurring in Mendocino County, California by Dr. William Courtney and his wife Kristin Peskuski. Please spend some time viewing and listening to the links on their website
    I think you will find Courtney’s interviews quite engaging.
    I am interested in your analysis of the information they are presenting.

    Curcumin is NOT marijuana. It is derived from Turmeric. Both cannabis and curcumin are interesting substances to research in the cure for cancer.

    I have severe osteoarthritis in addition to being a stage 4 cancer patient. I am in constant pain and do not want to take all the pain relievers prescribed by my doctor. Too many side effects! If I lived in a state that allowed medical marijuana you can bet I would use it. We deserve the choice.

    Thank you for your extremely important report. There are now 13+ states that have passed medical marijuana laws (with strict rules to avoid improper use). More state legislatures will be encouraged to take action as truthful statements such as yours are published, taking the place of the myths and falsehoods spread by U.S. governmental agencies
    Fortunately, the Department of Justice has taken steps to prevent the Drug Enforcement Agency from prosecuting and harassing patients (in states that have legalized medical marijuana) who are being treated with marijuana as recommended by their physicians.
    Marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule I narcotic (Schedule I is supposed to be restricted to dangerous, highly addictive narcotics with no medicinal value). To equate marijuana with heroin is utterly preposterous. It’s time for our politicians to replace hysteria with rationality!

    To answer the question has anyone known cases of people using marijuana for 30-40 years. That isn’t too hard to find. Ask your friends and neighbors.Your hairdresser, your attorney. My example would be dismissed by nay sayers as just anecdotal, and of course it is: I knew a couple in Santa Barbara, CA who had grown their own marijuana for eight years so they knew it was pure, organically grown, safe with no adulteration. It was very good marijuana. Very strong and not much was needed.
    They were young and they and their friends smoked for pleasure and relaxation the way some people have a drink at home after work. But marijuana is much more pleasant than alcohol. Drunks can become violent and abusive. Marijuana smokers are peaceful and happy. Alcohol is a depressant. Through several decades now I have observed friends who smoked home grown marijuana intelligently for years while young and continued the practice but to a lesser extent.
    No one wants to risk going to prison. They have always been healthy, intelligent and I see no mental or physical decline. The only ones, the few who used other drugs such as ecstasy or cocaine, do seem to have some cognitive problems. This is a very small survey, but I am confident enough in marijuana that if I were in severe pain, had an illness marijuana helps or cures I would certainly take it even if I had to move out of the republican religious right state where I have spent my life. (I am a cancer patient.)
    I do think that it is most important to grow your own or know who and where the product you buy has been grown. I do not at all support the illegal drug trade and would not use drugs brought into this country from the murderous drug cartels. There are several legitimate organizations working to legalize marijuana and we can support them.
    And the email that mentioned using a vaporizer is giving good advice on that. Smokers tell me they wouldn’t be without vaporizers.
    I would like to see marijuana, medical and recreational, legalized.
    Marijuana eases pain and it might treat cancer, and who knows, it could bring world peace if the power mad leaders and violent militants would smoke dope instead of acting like dopes.
    For a better future,

    Followup to my previous email:
    The correct spelling of the name of the research doctors at M D Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, TX who, along with fellow researchers, found curcumin kills cancer cells in the lab and in animals and was stopped by M D Anderson Cancer Center administration from doing human trials is Dr. Bharat Aggarwal.
    His research is found online. He is still at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston but he has to be very careful what he says now. He could lose his job if he speaks about what he knows about cancer treatments, but he does know curcumin is very successful against cancer.

    Has anyone ever done any research into the lives of regular marijuana users? I mean the type of follow-up research that might see whether long-term users (illegal ones) have had a greater or lesser incidence of cancers? I know there might be some difficulty with finding people who have been “pot-heads” for the last 30 or 40 years, but it probably can be done.
    Wouldn’t it seem logical that if marijuana had any real anti-disease potential, it would show up in lesser occurrences in this population than statistically in the population as a whole? Also, I’m sure a way could be found to factor in or out other life-style choices that might heighten the incidence of cancer, (i.e. cigarette smoking, etc.)

    I am glad to see cannabis discussed on The People’s Pharmacy. Renamed in 1937 as ‘marijuana’ and made illegal, cannabis was a favored medicine among the medical community. The AMA apposed the congressional act but was not given the opportunity to address our governing body before the vote took place. We now see today in state’s like California the people are rediscovering this medicine. At this point there are thousands of studies indicating that cannabis is a safe and effective medicine.
    Additionally many medical organizations support a patients right to use cannabis. I am very disturbed that law enforcement agencies, the current administration and many other government officials lie about the lack of existing science and continue to arrest, cancer patients, disabled veterans, and other patients, people, who have found the benefits of cannabis before the FDA could gather up enough dignity and integrity to do so. I hope The People’s Pharmacy does some follow up on this subject.
    – DJ –
    Charleston WV
    P.S. You have the 7 am slot here in WV, ouch.

    There is a great deal of evidence that marijuana is a useful medical herb. Unfortunately, the efforts to demonize it and the overwhelming negative propaganda against it on the part of the US government have made it difficult for any legitimate research to be done on it.
    People who suffer and die because medical marijuana is not available are the real victims of the federal crusade against it.

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