In April 2015 the National Institute of Drug Abuse acknowledged that cannabis kills cancer cells and dramatically reduces the growth of new brain cancer cells. This was a startling admission, considering that federal government’s position on cannabis retains it as a Schedule 1 drug with “no medical benefit.”
Research has continued despite this roadblock, and now the pharmaceutical industry might actually help overcome government’s stubbornness about cannabis as medicine.
British company GW Pharmaceuticals has been testing cannabis extracts for the past few years, and now has clinical evidence that certain formulations reduce the mortality rate of people with glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), a form of brain cancer that typically kills patients within two years. Results of the ‘phase 2 proof of concept study’ were announced Feb. 7.
Combined with temozolomide, the current medication used to treat GBM, patients’ median survival was more than 550 days, compared to 369 days without the cannabis treatment. The CBD (cannabidiol)-THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) treatment helped produced an 83 percent one-year survival rate, compared with 53 percent for non-cannabis patients.
Prior studies had shown that a CBD-THC combination “led to a synergistic reduction in the viability of U87MG glioma cells,” and the “co-administration of temozolomide with THC and CBD had further synergistic effects, causing a significant reduction in cell viability.”
In their press release, GW noted that there is substantial oncologic research on cannabinoids to treat several forms of cancer, with 15 publications on the positive effects on tumor growth and suppression – especially in promoting autophagy, or “the process of regulated self-degradation by cells.”
“We believe that the signals of efficacy demonstrated in this study further reinforce the potential role of cannabinoids in the field of oncology and provide GW with the prospect of a new and distinct cannabinoid product candidate in the treatment of glioma,” said CEO Justin Gover.
GW can be said to be one of more respectable pharma companies. Instead of actively fighting cannabis legalization – as U.S. companies have done by funding anti-pot propaganda prior to state ballot initiatives – GW is embracing the power of cannabis.
GW Pharma is on the verge of securing approval for a cannabis-derived drug called Epidiolex to treat children with severe epilepsy. It will file for approval this year in the U.S. and the U.K. Trials have shown “high statistical significance” in helping patients, some of who suffer 80 severe seizures a day.