One of the world’s first large, controlled trials of cannabis for melanoma launches in Australia
Marijuana is being called in to fight one of the world’s deadliest, scariest killers — a type of cancer caused by your next summer vacation.
Researchers at the University of Canberra have announced a $1 million research project with Israel-based Cann Pharmaceutical to see if the compounds in pot kill live cancer cells in humans as well as they do inside test tubes and mice in the labs.
Starting next year, patients will get medical-grade, whole plant extracts of specific cannabis strains alongside their current standard of care for melanoma. About 55,000 Australians have the dangerous cancer of the skin, which can be caused by sun damage to skin cell DNA. Less than ten percent of patients survive skin cancer that has spread underneath the surface of the skin.
“Australians have the highest rate of melanoma in the world, with estimates of more than 13,000 new cases to be diagnosed in 2016 alone,” said University of Canberra Professor of molecular and cellular biology Sudha Rao. “When you consider that melanoma is the third most common cancer in Australia and New Zealand, and almost 1,800 people will die as a result of this cancer this year, we need to work harder at finding effective treatments.”
The active molecules secreted by the cannabis plant, the cannabinoids have been shown — in various cell, and animal and very small human trials — to contain the potential to cause cancer cell death (apoptosis) and prevent cancer’s acquisition of blood supplies (by blocking angiogenesis).
Countless patient self-reports also attest to the use of topical cannabinoids to treat cancerous skin lesions.
Large-scale, double-blind placebo controlled human trials should commence immediately. However, the United States government — which funds the majority of the world’s cancer research — treats cannabis as the most dangerous drug on the planet, alongside street heroin and the hallucinogen LSD. Opioids like OxyContin and Vicodin are deemed safer.
U.S. lawmakers this year are working to cut the red tape on pot research. Their bill has bipartisan support, but is caught up on election season politics. In response, various states created medical cannabis research programs using pot tax dollars, local crops, and state research institutions.
A pure pill form of cannabis’ main active ingredient, THC, (which causes euphoria) has been around since 1985. By contrast, CannPharmaceutical specializes in whole plant formulations.
“The effects of all these compounds working together and regulating each other will be much different than the effects of any one compound working alone, which is why synthetic cannabis drugs produced of only one compound are reported in most case studies by patients to lack the effectiveness of whole plant medicine,” the company states. “… cannabis is a composition of many different compounds that work together to produce a faster and better outcome. Alter this – you lose the effect.”