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Shifting the persona of cannabis from a dangerous drug to a legitimate medicine is not happening overnight. Even with legalization accelerating in many countries, there is a strong anti-marijuana sentiment within our federal government as well as the medical community and other industries. But thanks to researchers in Israel, in partnership with an American medical cannabis producer, cannabis-based cancer treatment may finally become part of mainstream medicine.

There is much more to the cannabis plant besides THC. There are over 110 different cannabinoids, like THCA, CBN and CBG, within the cannabis plant, but two are pertinent to cancer patients. Non-psychoactive CBD is what many medical cannabis patients are looking for, and is used to treat everything from muscle pain to epilepsy. But in order to reap the full benefits from CBD, some THC must be present.

Why is it important for CBD and THC to work together?

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Modern medicine and pharmacology have looked at cannabinoids as singular compounds that should be isolated, and have had mixed results when trying to replicate the positive outcomes seen in medical cannabis patients who smoke or consume whole-plant cannabis. Until recently, science hasn’t caught on to the fact that cannabinoids are at their best when used together, a process which is referred to as the entourage effect. Instead of looking at individual cannabinoids, some of the most promising cannabinoid research has focused on developing strains containing different combinations of cannabinoids and terpenes.

For patients who want absolutely no psychoactive effects, cannabigerol (CBG) might be the missing link. Both CBD and CBG buffers the psychoactive effects of THC, which can give a patient relief without the side effects of “getting high.” It also functions similarly to CBD with its anti-inflammatory properties, and has shown to have anti-tumor effects.

The only way we know about these cannabinoids is from research. In places like Israel where cannabis has been legalized enough to allow for in-depth study, scientists have been able to explore its potential. The Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, a leader in the medical research community, is partnering with CURE Pharmaceutical, a California-based medical cannabis company, to research these cannabinoids for the specific purpose of treating cancer.

CURE has plans to submit their products through the FDA-approval process, which could further legitimize cannabis as a medicine. “This research partnership with Technion, which has one of the leading cannabis laboratories in the world, is a crucial step in our goal to bring new cancer-fighting cannabinoid molecules to market,” said CEO of CURE Pharmaceutical Rob Davidson.

“In this work the Technion team aims to clarify the antitumor effects of phytocannabinoids and terpenes on various cancer-driving mutations and pathways, as well as further elucidating the mechanism of the cannabinoid-mediated antitumor effects.”

Cannabinoid therapy for cancer

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For cancer patients who must endure radiation and/or chemotherapy, alternative treatments with few side effects must be explored. Both of these first-line treatments have destructive side effects and can cause long-term damage. Still, their effectiveness in combatting cancer has been proven. If cannabinoids could supplement radiation or chemotherapy, reduce the number of sessions, or replace them all together, it is worth legalizing cannabis in order to fully explore the possibilities.

About 38.5 percent of Americans will develop some form of cancer within their lifetime, and over $100 billion is spent annually on cancer treatment. If politicians, medical professionals and patients can reconcile their perception of cannabis, it could lead to one of the largest breakthroughs in cancer research and save lives.

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