THC Appears to Only Target Cancer Cells, Leaving Healthy Cells Alone
THC kills cancer cells by causing mitochondria to stop making energy.
There is a lot of new and old research surrounding cannabis and cancer treatment. And, perhaps just as significant, the medical community is now willing to listen to cancer patients describe how well cannabis treats their symptoms. There may be additional benefit to using cannabis during cancer treatment because THC kills cancer cells. Studies in the lab and animal models show THC to be an effective assassin.
More and more studies back up these patient anecdotal reports to demonstrate that CBD and THC (among other cannabinoids, terpenes, and flavonoids yet to be fully discovered) are critical in the fight against cancer. THC helps the immune system find cancer cells and encourages apoptosis, while CBD helps slow or even prevent metastasis.
Research Has Known THC Kills Cancer Cells For 40 Years
With funding and cannabis scheduling the way it is, cancer and cannabis research hasn’t been as prolific in North America as it has been overseas. But this is beginning to change.
Following the release of preliminary data, like the Virginia Study, published in 1975, the American government shut down funding into cannabis-cancer research for twenty years. It wasn’t until the 1990s that the US National Toxicology Program rediscovered the positive impact of cannabis on cancer.
Unfortunately, funding opportunities for cannabis research remain limited. There are many suggested reasons for this, but most cannabis advocates believe that Big Pharma financial incentives to key figures in the government influence funding and research for medicine. Permission is still required for all cannabis research, and as political commentators like John Oliver explain, that can take years.
THC Kills Cancer Cells Via Ceramide Pathways
Well, this goes back to the endocannabinoid system, and the CB1/CB2 receptors. Here, phytocannabinoids found in cannabis trigger cannabinoid receptors. There is a theory being tossed about research circles that disease comes from a deficiency in endocannabinoids. If this is the case, it makes sense that cannabis is able to treat a wide variety of conditions.
CB1 receptors come from the nervous system and the brain; CB2 receptors work throughout the body’s organs and are part of the immune system.
When THC binds to the CB1 or CB2 receptors (on a cancer cell) it causes the increased production of ceramide, a type of lipid commonly found in skin care products. It is the ceramide that drives cell death. A healthy cell will not increase ceramide in response to THC, but a diseased cell will.
Watch this time-lapse video of THC killing cancer cells but leaving healthy cells alone:
As ceramide increases, it makes the mitochondria more permeable to cyctochrome (an important protein in energy production). Cytochrome leaves the mitochondria and the cell can no longer make energy = death.
We are only at the very beginning of understanding how these mechanisms work; how cannabis works to kill cancer. What we do know, at this time, is that cannabis is a ruthless killer of cancer cells, but always leaves healthy cells alone.