Cannabis, or medical marijuana, has been used medicinally for thousands of years in China, India and the Middle East. As cannabis slowly emerges out from behind the specter of its illegal reputation here in the U.S., it would seem modern science has effectively cracked the code shrouding the efficacy of this traditional medicine, opening the door to a more systematic and effective use of cannabinoid therapies.
Cannabis Science, Inc., a Denver, CO-based company that develops, produces and commercializes phytocannabinoid-based pharmaceutical products, recently announced its intent to move forward with its FDA IND process as it relates to the beneficial outcome of several self-medicated skin cancer patients who have benefitted from its topical cannabis-based extracts. The patients have experienced dramatic reduction in tumor burden and for some, apparent eradication of their skin cancers.
In fact, in early April the company announced that one patient involved in their trial, who’d been self-treating her squamous cell carcinoma with Cannabis Science’s topically applied extracts, received a report that her follow-up biopsy was free of cancer cells. The company stated the patient would continue with her self-treatment for a while longer to minimize the chance of any surviving cancer cells in areas beyond what was biopsied.
“Squamous cell carcinomas have a much greater invasive potential than is typical of basal cell carcinomas,” said Robert Melamede PhD, president and CEO of Cannabis Science. “Photo-documentation of topical cannabis extract treatments of patient #2 and patient #3 dramatically demonstrate how the treatment appear to extrude the subcutaneous tumor to the surface as the killing and subsequent healing proceeds. Patient #3 reports continued progress as his tumors appear to shrink and the pain levels continue to improve. The patient’s wife commented that about 75% of the large tumor mass is gone. We will continue with ‘live updates’ as new pictures and physician reports are made available to us.”
Cannabis Science said it looked forward to its formulations one day becoming available on the mainstream market, and was “confident as to the efficacy of its products since they are currently used by patients on a limited intra-state basis.”
Cannabinoids: A Primer
Cannabinoids are a group of terpenophenolic compounds present in Cannabis (Cannabis sativa L). Currently, 538 natural compounds were identified from this plant. Forty-three of those 108 are identified as cannabinoids, which are C21 compounds uniquely present in Cannabis sativa L.
Cannabis Science explained that there are 10 main types of cannabinoids and 14 different cannabinoid subtypes. Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the principal psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, but it also has other effects. Cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabinol (CBN) are the other two most prevalent natural cannabinoids and have received the most study.
There are three general types of cannabinoids: phytocannabinoids occur uniquely in the cannabis plant; endogenous cannabinoids are produced in the bodies of humans and other animals; and synthetic cannabinoids are similar compounds produced in a laboratory.
Phytocannabinoids, also called natural cannabinoids, herbal cannabinoids, and classical cannabinoids, are only known to occur naturally in significant quantity in the cannabis plant. They are concentrated in a viscous resin that is produced in glandular structures known as trichomes, and are most prevalent in the flowers of the female plants.
Cannabinoid receptors in the human body were not discovered until 1990. CB1 receptors are found primarily in the brain, specifically in the basal ganglia and in the limbic system, including the hippocampus. They are also found in the cerebellum and in both male and female reproductive systems. CB1 receptors appear to be responsible for the euphoric and anti-convulsive effects of cannabis.
CB2 receptors are found almost exclusively in the immune system, with the greatest density in the spleen. CB2 receptors appear to be responsible for the anti-inflammatory and possibly other therapeutic effects of cannabis.
The endocannabinoid system refers to a group of neuromodulators and receptors involved in a variety of physiological processes including appetite, pain sensation, mood, and memory. The system is named for endocannabinoids, the endogenous lipids that bind cannabinoid receptors (the same receptors that mediate the psychoactive effects of cannabis).
Science has continued to explore the role that endo-cannabinoids play in almost every major life function in the human body. According to Cannabis Science, cannabinoids act as a bio regulatory mechanism for most life processes, which explains why medical cannabis has been recommended as a treatment for many diseases and ailments, including pain, arthritic conditions, migraine headaches, anxiety, epileptic seizures, insomnia, loss of appetite, GERD (chronic heartburn), nausea, glaucoma, AIDS wasting syndrome, depression, bipolar disorder (particularly depression-manic-normal), multiple sclerosis, menstrual cramps, Parkinson’s, trigeminal neuralgia (tic douloureux), high blood pressure, irritable bowel syndrome and bladder incontinence.
“Our product, broadly described, is medical cannabis—a term that encompasses a wide variety of products, ranging from plants grown by patients for their own use to pharmaceutical products developed from one or more of the cannabinoid compounds found in the whole cannabis plant,” the Cannabis Science said.