As the landscape of healthcare evolves, our understanding of preventative measures gains prominence in the pursuit of holistic well-being. Preventative cancer management, driven by a desire to thwart the onset and progression of this challenging disease, has garnered significant attention in the public sphere. According to the Indian Council of Medical Research-National Cancer Registry Programme, the incidence of cancer cases in the country is projected at 15.7 lakh in 2025. In this context, cannabinoid medicines have emerged as a promising treatment pathway in holistic cancer prevention, for both preventative cancer management as well as palliative medicine for improving the quality of life of terminally ill patients. It is therefore essential to shed light on emergent scientific research bolstering the role of cannabinoid medicine in holistic cancer prevention and management.
Cannabis and oncology
Cancer, a complex interplay of epigenetics and environmental factors, necessitates an integrative treatment approach that extends beyond traditional interventions, exploring functional medicines alike. A cornerstone of this approach lies in the powerful anti-inflammatory properties of cannabinoid medicines, particularly THC (tetrahydrocannabinol) and CBD (cannabidiol). Chronic inflammation creates a nurturing environment for malignant cells to thrive, linking inflammation and cancer closely. By modulating inflammatory responses, cannabinoids unique compounds found in the cannabis plant act as a natural safeguard, mitigating the conditions conducive to tumour growth. Recent studies have found that cannabinoids, including the relationship between CBD and cancer or THC and cancer, can modulate the tumour microenvironment, reducing secretion of cytokines from cancer cells. This, in turn, limits the recruitment of macrophages by cancer cells, impeding tumour growth.
Encouragingly, new generation biopharma firms in India such as Savikalpa Sciences are pushing the scientific understanding of cannabis-derived treatments and medicine by conducting extensive preclinical research demonstrating the powerful inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines by cannabinoids in vitro and in vivo.
The endocannabinoid system, a complex network of receptors found throughout the body, plays a critical role in maintaining balance (homeostasis). Cannabinoids have shown promise in regulating cellular processes, enhancing immune function, and promoting overall equilibrium of physiological processes. Through this mechanism, cannabinoid medicines contribute to fortifying the body's innate defences against the cellular abnormalities that underlie cancer showing promise for cannabis and oncology.
Certain cannabinoids exhibit the capacity to trigger apoptosis, the natural process of programmed cell death. Pioneering research done at Technion - Israel Institute of Technology by Professor David Meiri and his team at the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research is demonstrating the role of minor cannabinoids (other than the relationship between THC and cancer or CBD and cancer) in treating specific oncological disorders in preclinical models. This shows the exciting potential of cannabinoids (over 160 such compounds are found in the cannabis plant) to selectively target and eliminate malignant cells while sparing healthy ones via the endocannabinoid system an extraordinary outcome in preventative cancer management.
It's crucial to recognize that holistic cancer prevention is not solely about physical health. Psychological well-being plays a significant role in overall wellness and preventative cancer management. Chronic stress and anxiety can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to malignancy. Cannabinoid medicine, when used mindfully and under medical guidance, has the potential to alleviate stress and anxiety, creating an environment conducive to cellular resilience.
You may like to read
Mindful use of cannabinoid medicines
While the potential benefits of cannabinoid medicines and cannabis-derived treatments in preventative cancer management are promising, their use must be approached with responsibility and prudence. It is essential to seek specialized guidance on dosing and drug delivery methods to ensure that cannabinoid medicine and therapy aligns with an individual's unique health profile. It is equally important that standards pertaining to pharmaceutical manufacturing are applied to the nascent functional medicine and cannabis medicine manufacturing ecosystem so that physicians have access to stable and quality-controlled formulations when.
Preventative cancer management and cannabinoid medicines form a part of a larger, holistic cancer prevention landscape. This encompasses personalized nutrition, physical activity, stress management, sleep management, and vigilant cancer screenings. By integrating these facets with the benefits of cannabinoid therapeutics, we forge a powerful shield against the onset of cancer, transcending traditional medical boundaries by harnessing the benefits of cannabis and oncology.
Given the evolving healthcare needs of society to manage lifestyle and chronic disease, like inflammation and cancer, it has become relevant to adopt an integrative treatment approach backed by scientific advancements. Preventative cancer management, invigorated by evidence-based strategies and the mindful use of cannabinoid medicines, embodies this synergy. It is crucial to educate ourselves and others about the benefits of this promising treatment pathway and there is no reason India should not leapfrog other nations in becoming a leader in cannabis and oncology worldwide.
The article is authored by Dr Lenny Da Costa (MBBS, DGM, FCMT, FINEM) - Geriatric Physician and Functional Medicine Expert.