Many people are aware that marijuana can help people who have cancer, but another member of the cannabis family has now shown tremendous potential for treating the disease as well.
Like marijuana, hemp contains therapeutic components like cannabinol, cannabidiol, and tetrahydrocannabinol. It does not cause addiction, nor does it have psychoactive properties, yet its therapeutic capabilities have not been studied to the same extent as marijuana. It was used for centuries for medicinal purposes, but scientists stopped studying it when the Controlled Substances Act was put in place in 1970. Now, looser regulations and new evidence are prompting researchers to give this plant another look.
Sullivan University College of Pharmacy researchers recently decided to look into the potential healing powers of extract taken from a strain of hemp grown in Kentucky. While many tests have looked into how cannabidiol can help cancer patients, this was the first study to look at hemp’s anti-migration powers. After controlling the growing conditions and its processing to ensure the extract wouldn’t have any contaminants, they carried out a pair of studies into its cancer-fighting ability.
In the first study, the researchers added hemp extract to cultured ovarian cancer cells. They found that it slowed cell migration in accordance with the dose administered, indicating the extract’s potential utility in slowing or even stopping the spread of cancer to other areas of the body.
This finding prompted a second study looking to the biology behind hemp’s protective action against ovarian cancer. Tests with cultured cells of ovarian cancer indicated that hemp slows the secretion of the IL-1 beta interleukin, which can produce damaging inflammation and has been linked to the progression of cancer.
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Hemp is far safer than existing treatments
It’s an exciting development that could significantly change the way ovarian cancer is treated. The standard treatment involves the drug Cisplatin, which is known for its high toxicity. According to Cancer Research U.K., some of the side effects of Cisplatin include kidney damage, hearing changes, weakness, fatigue, bruising, nosebleeds, bleeding gums, breathlessness, and a higher risk of getting an infection. Some patients will also experience a loss of appetite, tingling or numbness in their toes and fingers, loss of taste, ringing in the ears, blurred vision, trouble distinguishing colors, and allergic reaction.
Thankfully, there could be no need for this risky drug if hemp lives up to its promise. Researcher Chase Turner said: “Our findings from this research as well as prior research show that KY hemp slows ovarian cancer comparable to or even better than the current ovarian cancer drug Cisplatin.”
Next, the researchers would like to carry out further studies on cultured cancer cells with a view to gaining a deeper understanding of how hemp prompts cancer cell death. They plan to test the hemp extract on mice before moving on to human trials.
According to statistics provided by the American Cancer Society, more than 22,000 women will be newly diagnosed with ovarian cancer this year, while 14,070 women will die from it. It’s the fifth deadliest type of cancer among women. The current treatments leave quite a lot to be desired, and this study reminds us that some of the best solutions aren’t created in a high-tech lab; they come from plants that have been used by humans for thousands of years. There may not be as much profit there, but the power to save thousands of lives makes this one approach that it would be senseless not to pursue.