Marijuana For Pancreatic Cancer

Pancreatic cancer is a medical condition where mutated cells begin to proliferate among the normal, healthy cells of the pancreas. The mutated cells are referred to as cancerous because their growth is unprecedented. Their continual growth may lead to the formation of a tumor. With time, cancer cells developing in the pancreas cause problems with the production of hormones, digestive juices, and enzymes. Pancreatic cancer may develop as one of two illnesses. It can be cancer of the endocrine pancreas meaning it affects the part of the pancreas that produces insulin. Alternatively, the condition could be a cancer of the exocrine pancreas, meaning the cancerous cells are located within the part of the pancreas responsible for producing enzymes. The disease is usually manifests as discomfort in the upper area of the belly, loss of appetite or weight loss.

Conventional treatment methods

Typically, doctors administer chemotherapy and radiation as methods to treat and control the disease. With radiation, high energy waves directed at the cancerous cells kill them off. Chemotherapy is usually highly specialized towards the patient’s condition and involves administering a combination of chemical agents to fight off and kill cancerous cells. Another alternative is surgery. Most people, however, are usually unable to go into surgery based on the propagation of their cancer and their low likelihood of surviving the procedure. Surgery could include a medical operation to remove part of the pancreas as well as a section of the duodenum’s duct. After the operation, patients usually still have to undergo chemotherapy whose adverse effects take a toll on their health.

How marijuana treats pancreatic cancer

Pancreatic cancer is caused by cancerous cells that are of similar nature to other types of cancers. In one study, a team of researchers discovered that medical marijuana could inhibit tumor growth. During their experiments, the scientists used cancerous cells from the pancreas. Upon investigation, they found that these mutated cells expressed a higher number of cannabinoid receptors. Specifically, there was an excessive expression of the cannabinoid receptors CB1 and CB2. This resulted in an imbalance in the body’s endocannabinoid system. As a result, cancerous cells developed within the body. Cannabinoids from medical marijuana, once introduced to the malignant cells of the pancreas, triggered the cannabinoid receptors and lowered their expression. This induced a balance in the endocannabinoid system which caused the growth of the tumor to be inhibited. In this way, medical marijuana could stop further propagation of pancreatic cancer. Without further growth, other treatments such as chemotherapy could be more efficient since they would continue killing off cancer cells without the development of new ones. Medical marijuana could, therefore, play a critical role in pancreatic cancer treatment.

Additional findings from scientists have found that cannabinoids have the ability to kill off cancer cells. In live model experiments, it was observed that the administration of the cannabinoid THC caused apoptosis in cancer cells. Apoptosis refers to the self-destruction of cells. In other words, the cells commit suicide once they are exposed to this component of marijuana. Fortunately, THC only affects cancer cells in this way. Healthy cells are left unharmed. The Spanish team that did this research concluded that medical marijuana causes the self-destruction of pancreatic cancer cells.

Although there are no current clinical trials underway for marijuana’s treatment of pancreatic cancer, researchers from Curtin University are making headway towards it.

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