The whole point of free speech is not to make ideas exempt from criticism but to expose them to it.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Brain tumors and pot

I challenged my friend Bob Newland's assertion that pot actually suppresses lung cancer growth. He offers the following which doesn't really address the issue of lung cancer but does discuss brain tumors in rats.

The source is Cannabis Culture Magazine. It is interesting, but what happens to rats does not necessarily happen to humans. I'm doing some research on the article's claims about the actions of some pliticians to suppress this apparently effective cancer treatment.

US: Pot Shrinks Tumors; Government Knew In '74
by Raymond Cushing, (29 Mar 2001)

San Antonio Current

(Wednesday, March 28, The United States Supreme Court rules on whether marijuana use for medicinal purposes can be a valid defense on charges of marijuana possession. The following article was listed as one of the top 25 censored stories of the year 2000. We reprint it here and pose the question, why would the government want to keep us from knowing this?)

The term medical marijuana took on dramatic new meaning in February 2000, when researchers in Madrid announced they had destroyed incurable brain tumors in rats by injecting them with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.

The Madrid study marks only the second time that THC has been administered to tumor-bearing animals. In 1974, researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institutes of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice -- lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.

The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on the events in his book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. In 1976, President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies, who set out -- unsuccessfully -- to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the "high."

The Madrid researchers reported in the March issue of Nature Medicine that they injected the brains of 45 rats with cancer cells, producing tumors whose presence they confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging ( MRI ). On the 12th day they injected 15 of the rats with THC and 15 with Win-55,212-2, a synthetic compound similar to THC. "All the rats left untreated uniformly died 12-18 days after glioma ( brain cancer ) cell inoculation ... Cannabinoid ( THC )-treated rats survived significantly longer than control rats. THC administration was ineffective in three rats, which died by days 16-18. Nine of the THC-treated rats surpassed the time of death of untreated rats, and survived up to 19-35 days. Moreover, the tumor was completely eradicated in three of the treated rats." The rats treated with Win-55,212-2 showed similar results.

The Spanish researchers, led by Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutense University, also irrigated healthy rats' brains with large doses of THC for seven days, to test for harmful biochemical or neurological effects. They found none.

"Careful MRI analysis of all those tumor-free rats showed no sign of damage related to necrosis, edema, infection or trauma ... We also examined other potential side effects of cannabinoid administration. In both tumor-free and tumor-bearing rats, cannabinoid administration induced no substantial change in behavioral parameters such as motor coordination or physical activity. Food and water intake, as well as body weight gain, were unaffected during and after cannabinoid delivery. Likewise, the general hematological profiles of cannabinoid-treated rats were normal. Thus, neither biochemical parameters nor markers of tissue damage changed substantially during the seven-day delivery period or for at least two months after cannabinoid treatment ended."

Guzman's investigation is the only time since the 1974 Virginia study that THC has been administered to live, tumor-bearing animals. ( The Spanish researchers cite a 1998 study in which cannabinoids inhibited breast cancer cell proliferation, but that was a "petri dish" experiment that didn't involve live subjects. )

In an e-mail interview for this story, the Madrid researcher said he had heard of the Virginia study, but had never been able to locate literature on it. Hence, the Nature Medicine article characterizes the new study as the first on tumor-laden animals and doesn't cite the 1974 Virginia investigation.

"I am aware of the existence of that research. In fact I have attempted many times to obtain the journal article on the original investigation by these people, but it has proven impossible," Guzman said.

In 1983, the Reagan/Bush Administration tried to persuade American universities and researchers to destroy all 1966-76 cannabis research work, including compendiums in libraries, reports Jack Herer, who states, "We know that large amounts of information have since disappeared."

Guzman provided the title of the work -- "Antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids," an article in a 1975 Journal of the National Cancer Institute -- and this writer obtained a copy at the University of California medical school library in Davis and faxed it to Madrid.

The summary of the Virginia study begins, "Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol ( THC ) and cannabinol ( CBN )" -- two types of cannabinoids, a family of active components in marijuana. "Mice treated for 20 consecutive days with THC and CBN had reduced primary tumor size."

The 1975 journal article doesn't mention breast cancer tumors, which are featured in the only newspaper story ever to appear about the 1974 study -- in the "Local" section of The Washington Post on Aug. 18, 1974. Under the headline, "Cancer Curb Is Studied," it read in part:

"The active chemical agent in marijuana curbs the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice and may also suppress the immunity reaction that causes rejection of organ transplants, a Medical College of Virginia team has discovered." The researchers "found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers, and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."

Guzman, writing from Madrid, was eloquent in his response after this writer faxed him the clipping from The Washington Post of a quarter century ago. In translation, he wrote:

"It is extremely interesting to me, the hope that the project seemed to awaken at that moment, and the sad evolution of events during the years following the discovery, until now we once again draw back the veil, over the anti-tumoral power of THC, 25 years later. Unfortunately, the world bumps along between such moments of hope and long periods of intellectual castration."

News coverage of the Madrid discovery has been virtually nonexistent in this country. The news broke quietly on Feb. 29, 2000 with a story that ran once on the UPI wire about the Nature Medicine article. This writer stumbled on it through a link that appeared briefly on the Drudge Report Web page. The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times all ignored the story, even though its newsworthiness is indisputable: a benign substance occurring in nature destroys deadly brain tumors.

Powered by MAPMAP posted-by: Richard Lake

Pubdate: Thu, 29 Mar 2001
Source: San Antonio Current (TX)
Copyright: 2001 San Antonio Current
Address: 1500 North St. Mary's Street, San Antonio, Texas 78215
Author: Raymond Cushing

Box 15, 199 West Hastings, Vancouver BC
Canada V6B 1H4


denature said...

That's a horrible source, but it turns out there is some interesting cancer research with THC.

That's not to imply smoking protects you from lung cancer. But I would also say risk of lung cancer from marijuana on its own has been overblown in some circles.

There are other lung diseases that can be associated with smoking marijuana smoking.

Cigarettes and Centerfires... said...

Counting from the mid-'60s, we have a large group of "heavy" regular marijuana smokers, many of whom are now in their 60s and older.

One would think that if cannabis smoking caused lung disease, that group would be obviously affected. The epidemiologists would be all over it.

At best, that group might be in better health than the general population in their demographic. At worst, it seems they are in no worse general health than their peers.

Could it be that cannabis just ain't the demon it has been made out to be?

Michael Sanborn said...

I agree with both posts above. I'm not thrilled with using a source that obviously advocates for one side or another on an issue.

But, I took the time to do a little research and found nothing disputing the information in Bob's source. Which is why I posted it.

Cigarettes and Centerfires:
I really don't care if the stuff causes leprosy. If it relieves the pain of a person dying of cancer, or relieves the nausea associated with chemo, who are we to tell those people they can't have it? Watch TV and see that people are willing to risk heart attack or death or a 4 hour boner to cure everything from limp peckers to twitchy legs to fungus-filled toenails. People weight the benefits and drawbacks of drugs every time they take one.