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The Four Most Impactful Cannabis Research Studies on Cancer

Emily Robertson

Past and present cannabis research studies are gathering evidence that cannabinoid therapy is a viable treatment for cancer.

With legalization growing across the globe, so too is cannabis research. While there are still some significant roadblocks, particularly with the scheduling of substances in the U.S., change is coming. Gaining access to work on this important medicine can only continue to grow. However, we also want to give a nod to the ones that came before us. These a range of some of the most important cannabis research studies of all time. Ones that helped the cannabis legalization movement.

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The Virginia Study: Cannabis Reduces Tumor Size

The Virginia Study is one of the most cited pieces of research to demonstrate how the government attempted to hinder research into cannabis and cancer.

The study — published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute — took place in 1974, when cannabis still had strong links to ‘hippies’ and racism. What went forward was a study to find out how the plant endangers the immune system actually ended up discovering that CBD and THC decreases tumour size. Originally funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), when the results didn’t come back the way the funding body wanted, funds dried up.

The researchers treated tumors in mice them with THC. After twenty days, there was evidence that there was a significant reduction in tumor size. Only one long-forgotten article in the Washington Post published the results.

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Smoking Cannabis Does Not Cause Lung Cancer

More recently, the concern between the link to cannabis and lung cancer is evident in scientific circles. This isn’t unrealistic. Combusting any sort of organic matter has potential to become carcinogenic, so naturally, cannabis may have the same effect.

A study in 2006 found that the concern may not be as great as people originally believed. The study was, at the time, the largest case-control study on the topic of cancer and cannabis. Funded by NIDA, researchers looks at 1200 head, neck, and throat cancer patients in Los Angeles, matched against 1040 participants (without cancer) that were congruent for age, sex, and neighborhood. The findings were that there was no association between cancer and smoking cannabis. However, there was a twenty fold increase in cancer risk for those who smoked two or more packs per day of cigarettes.

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Cannabis Reduce Side Effects of Chemotherapy

It’s generally agreed among doctors that cannabis can assist in reduction of chemotherapy side effects. And it’s no wonder – proof of this has been coming in since 1975. The original study took place under the guidance of Professor Lester Grinspoon of Harvard Medical School, originally to stop his friend, and renowned astronomer Carl Sagan, from consuming cannabis.

What Grinspoon found, however, was that much of his understanding of the negative effects of cannabis were inaccurate. He went on to write a book, Marihuana Reconsidered,  in 1971. He also found that cannabis helped with the negative side effects of chemotherapy after his 15-year-old son received a leukemia diagnosis.

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CBD Prevents Metastasis in Breast and Prostate Cancers

In a recent study, researchers found that CBD may be able to stop the metastasis of breast cancer by blocking the ld-1 protein. This protein helps cancer spread and become more aggressive.

Mine were the subjects of previous research, but involved antisense gene therapy to de-activate the protein. However, this is not possible on humans. Due to prior research on the subject, the researchers believed that CBD may be able to take the place of this gene therapy, using it to block ld-1. Fortunately, this proved to be true.

Meanwhile, researchers performed similar tests on prostate cancer. They found that CBD and THC could help to prevent metastasis and also potentially cause apoptosis — also known as cell death — in the cancer cells.

This is big news. CBD’s ability to prevent the spread of cancer cells is a big step in saving lives and allowing cancer-killing treatments to do their job more quickly.

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The future looks bright for cannabis medicine and for human health. Human clinical trials will move ahead in countries that support cannabis research studies, such as Canada and Israel and hopefully more and more countries will embrace legalizing this medicinal plant as a global push for legalization gradually takes place.


Emily Robertson

Emily Robertson has been writing freelance and contract work since 2011. She has written on a variety of topics, including travel writing of North America and the growing legalized cannabis industry across the globe. Robertson has a master’s degree in literature and gender studies, and brings this through in her writing by always trying to explore different perspectives. Born and raised in southwestern Ontario, Robertson moved to Glasgow, Scotland in 2016 to undergo her doctorate in Scottish Literature. She lives in the West End with her dog, Henley.

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    Tim Simon

    Thanks for the information I began selling CBD products last year through a private company and I will be growing hemp this year article was a great interest to me and many others

    January 2, 2020 at 1:02 pm Reply
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    Mandla M Buthelezi

    Thank you for the info.

    January 5, 2020 at 8:40 am Reply

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