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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Cannabis may provide novel "cure" for prostate cancer

Cannabis, Indian Hemp or rather marijuana may provide the novel treatment for prostate cancer by acting as analgesia on bone pain, improving quality of life, while reducing narcotic consumption and preventing opioid dependence. CHUKWUMA MUANYA writes.

THE verdict is out: besides its use in the treatment of diseases and health problems such as Human Immuno-deficiency Virus (HIV)/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), glaucoma, eye problems, cachexia (wasting syndrome), pain, muscle spasticity, convulsion, insomnia, asthma, hypertension, depression, among others; Cannabis sativa also called Indian hemp or marijuana has been confirmed to be effective in is managing prostate cancer patients. 
 Cannabis sativa, more commonly known as marijuana, is a hemp plant that grows freely throughout the world. The cannabis plant most commonly is known today as a potent psychoactive substance, but for many years it was harvested primarily for its fibre.

 Researchers in a study published recently in Indian Journal of Urology concluded: “It is our conclusion that it would be of interest to conduct clinical trials involving medicinal cannabis or other cannabinoid agonists, comparing clinical markers such as Prostate Specific Antigen (PSA) with controls, especially in men with bone metastatic prostate cancer, whom would not only benefit from the possible anti-androgenic effects of cannabinoids but also from analgesia of bone pain, improving quality of life, while reducing narcotic consumption and preventing opioid dependence.”
  Cannabinoids are present in Cannabis sativa and occur naturally in the nervous and immune systems of animals. They are structurally related to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or that bind to cannabinoid receptors.
PSA is screening test for prostate cancer.
  An opioid is any psychoactive chemical that resembles morphine in its pharmacological effects.
  The study titled “The role of cannabinoids in prostate cancer: Basic science perspective and potential clinical applications” was published by Juan A. Ramos and Fernando J. Bianco.
  Also, Nigerian researchers from Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba –Akoko, Ondo State, in study published in IOSR Journal of Pharmacy Vol. 2, Issue 3, May-June, 2012, pp.460-463 concluded: “Cannabis sativa (marijuana) is a wonderful and sacred plant that is grown all over the world. It is a plant, which is plagued, ignorantly, with suspicions and controversies that greatly prevented its usefulness to mankind.    
  “Apart from being used for recreational purposes, Cannabis sativa is useful for the treatment of some chronic diseases which defied medical cure such as HIV/ AIDS, cancer, asthma etc. Marijuana is also a plant that has some commercial and economical value.
  “Consequent upon these values, it is recommended that: Cannabis sativa should be legalised so that it can provide employment for the producers, distributors and traders of the commodity. More researches should be carried out on Cannabis Sativa so that mankind could harness the Medical, commercial, agricultural, social, recreational and economic utility inherent in then crop.”
  Dr. G.O. Ayenigbara of the Human Kinetics And Health Education Unit, Science And Technical Education Department, Adekunle Ajasin University, Akungba – Akoko, Ondo State, published the study titled “Medical Utility of Cannabis Sativa”.
  Despite the medicinal uses, marijuana has been shrouded in controversy. There are three hypothesized social\environmental consequences of Cannabis use that have received attention, the role of marijuana in enhancing interpersonal skills, the effect of Cannabis on aggression and violence, and the role of marijuana use in what has been called the amotivational syndrome. Many users of marijuana have s aid they use the drug because it enhances their social skills and allows them to be more competent in social situations. 
  Prostate cancer is an established public health concern in modern society and has been for decades. It is the most common cancer in men and the second most common cause of cancer death in most countries.
  Even with widespread screening with prostate-specific antigen (PSA), still five per cent of cases present with metastatic lesions at the time of diagnosis. Because of all this, there is a fundamental necessity to search for and find new and novel treatments to this common pathology.
  Cannabis and cannabinoids have often been an issue of much polemics in the realm of science, but since the discovery of cannabinoid receptors in rat brain in the late 1980s, there has been a growing interest in the research of these compounds and the knowledge continues to expand.   There has been experimental evidence that cannabinoids possess anti-androgenic proprieties.
  The researchers wrote: “Prostate cancer is a grave public health problem worldwide. Despite the fact that most cases currently present with localized disease, at the time of diagnosis, about five per cent of men still present with metastatic disease.
  “The most common site of spread is bone, and these lesions are frequently symptomatic, causing pain, debility, and functional impairment. Many of these men do not have curative treatment options, and this remains a crucial clinical problem, both in terms of the number of men affected and its impact on their quality of life. For these reasons, it is fundamental to invest time and intellectual resources into finding new and novel targets for the treatment of prostate cancer.
  “It seems that the studies of Sarfaraz and colleagues lead to the direction that cannabinoids should be considered as agents for the management of prostate cancer, pending support from in vivo experiments. This would not only make sense from an anti-androgenic point of view but also for men with bone metastatic prostate cancer, perhaps from a pain management or palliative point of view. Among the patients suffering with chronic pain and receiving opioids, one in five abuse prescription controlled substances, and it is not difficult to see that opioid dependence and abuse is becoming a public health problem. Different methods of managing pain should be addressed to avoid these scenarios.
  “The presence of pain in men with advanced prostate cancer is an immediate indication for aggressive management with analgesics, while adequate treatments that address directly the cause of the pain are pursued. 
  “Cannabinoids possess attributes that have impact in both cancer pain and prostate cancer pathophysiology. These compounds harbor analgesic properties that aid bone cancer pain, reduce opioid consumption, side effects, and dependence, as well as exhibiting anti-androgenic effects on experimental prostate cancer cells.
  “Cannabis sativa and its main active component delta-9-THC have long been used for numerous purposes throughout history including medicinal, textile, and recreational. Since its legal banning in the United States in 1937, it has become an issue of taboo and controversy, frowned upon for its recreational uses and psychotropic effects.
  “Nonetheless, the endocannabinoid signaling system has recently been the focus of medical research and considered a potential therapeutic target since the late 1980s when Howlett and colleagues identified and characterised the distinct cannabinoid receptor in rat brain. 
  “The antagonising effect of cannabinoids in the male reproductive system and physiology can be dated to 1974 where experimental models in male rats showed depression of spermatogenesis and decrease in circulating testosterone levels.
  “In 2005, Sarfaraz and colleagues showed increased expression of both CB1 and CB2 receptors in cultured prostate cancer cells when compared with normal prostate cells, treatment of prostate cancer cells with cannabinoid CB1/CB2 agonist WIN-55, 212-2 results in a dose and time dependent decrease in cell viability, and increased apoptosis along with decrease in androgen receptor protein expression, PSA expression, and secreted PSA, suggesting that cannabinoids should be considered as agents for the management of prostate cancer.”
  According to the Adekunle Ajasin University study, the plant is one of the most hated, maligned and detested any where in the world and huge sums of money and efforts are being expended to annihilate its production, distribution, marketing and consumption. 
  Aiyenigbara wrote: “Cannabis sativa is erroneously believed to cause deleterious health problems among other controversies. However, studies have shown that this plant, apart from being regarded as one of the five sacred crops, has a lot of medical, recreational, commercial and social uses. Evidences have also shown that marijuana is useful in the control and management of chronic diseases such as HIV/AIDS, cancer, asthma, glaucoma, cachexia, hypertension, depression, etc. Nevertheless, further research is required to make this wonderful plant more useful to humanity.”
  Marijuana is a wonderful plant that is known and grown all over the world. This plant is so popular and revered to the extent that it was worshipped in India. The plant has a lot of uses commercially, agriculturally, medically and socially. The leaves, the stems including the outer covering of the back are very useful. 
  While the leaves are smoked recreationally, the stem has been known to be used for producing the strongest rope and pot ship builders used marijuana ropes in ship sails. Evidences have also shown that the hemp fibers were employed in the production of clothes and pots. According to Maisto, Galizio & Connors, Hemp fibres were also used for house building in Southern Africa.
  Medically, Indian hemp has been used in the treatment of diseases and health problems such as HIV/AIDS, glaucoma, eye problems, cachexia, treatment of pain, muscle spasticity, convulsion, insomnia, asthma, hypertension, depression etc. Moreover, cannabis was consumed for recreational purposes. Besides, cannabis is being used as a shampoo and for other cosmetic purposes. In addition, the cultivation of cannabis is a lucrative business that yields substantial revenue to producers and marketers locally and internationally.
  The therapeutic uses of marijuana today are much more circumscribed. For the most part, synthetic products such as Levontradol, Nabilone, and Marinol, that chemically resemble the Cannabinoids have been used in current treatment efforts. These synthetics are used because they provide the active elements of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) in a more stable manner, Synthetics also can provide better solubility. Nevertheless, it was Cannabis THC that opened he way for the synthesis. And rapid effect is experienced when marijuana is smoked than when the synthetic THC is taken orally. Therefore, marijuana in its natural form is more efficacious and faster in action than synthetic THC.
  There has been a recent resurgence in efforts to legalise, marijuana for medicinal purposes. Much of this effort has been spurred by an increased use of marijuana by AIDS patients who claim that marijuana reduces the nausea and vomiting caused by the disease and because it stimulates appetite, thus helping them to regain weight lost during their illness. The sympathy for this position led to the establishment of “Cannabis clubs” on several major cities in the United States. These organizations purchases marijuana in bulk and provide it, in some cases, free to patient with AIDS, cancer and other diseases.
  According to the Adekunle Ajasin University study, specific health problems for which cannabis is prescribed in synthetic forms are: 
  Glaucoma: Glaucoma is a generic term used to denote ocular diseases involving increases in intraocular pressure.
  This pressure damages the optic nerves and represents the leading causes of blindness in the United States. While drug and surgical interventions are available, their effectiveness is variable. Cannabis has been shown to decrease intraocular pressure, therefore, it is preventive, although patients have experienced side effects regardless of whether the Cannabis was administered orally, through injection or by smoking.
Nausea and Vomiting:Cannabis and THC synthetics have been used to counter the nausea and vomiting frequently associated with chemotherapies for cancer. Positive outcomes have continued toe emerge from the use of marijuana by cancer patients and particularly that children undergoing cancer chemotherapy may benefit from administration of orally administered high doses of Cannabinoids.
  Even though THC has some side effects, many patients undergoing chemotherapy find the THC side effects an acceptable price to pay.
  Cachexia: Cachexia is a disorder in which an individual physiologically “wastes away” often due to HIV infection or Cancer. 
 Based partly on anecdotal reports that marijuana use is associated with increased frequency and amount of eating, it could be proposed that marijuana be used with patients with cachexia to stimulate appetite and thus weight gain. Besides, appetite and weight may also produce strength and a sense of well being. These anecdotal reports have some empirical support. Plasse et al (1991) found a relationship between marijuana ingestion and appetite. Accordingly, some individuals experiencing disorders that include cachexia have been turning to marijuana to stem the tide of weight loss and to gain weight.
  Other Medical Uses: Literature, according to Maisto, Galizio and Connors (1999), have shown that Cannabis and THC synthetics have been used to a much extent in the treatment of pains, muscle spasticity, convulsant activity, insominia, hypertension, asthma and depression. However, the data in support of these uses have been equivocal (Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana, 1997). More research is needed to identify the utility of Cannabis in medical treatment of these and other disorders.
  Agricultural and commercial uses of Cannabis sativa: The Cannabis plant for many years was harvested primarily for its fiber. These strong hemp fibers were employed in the production of rope, clothes and ship sails (Maisto, Galizio and Connors 1999). Archeologists at a Taiwanee site also discovered pots made of fibers presumed to be from the Cannabis plant. In the North American Colonies, the Cannabis plant was raised for fiber by the Jamestown settlers in Varginia in 1611. Not long after, this hemp plant was firmly entrenched as a basic stable crop and was cultivated by George Washington, among many others. Cannabis was harvested in New England starting 1629, it remained a Core U.S Crop until after the civil war. The center of this hemp production was Kentucky, where it was a major crop product for decades, all for its fiber content.
  Recreational Uses: Cannabis was consumed for recreational purposes, though, only to a limited degree, and descriptions of its psychoactive effect were not common. However, the 1920s marked a wider use of Cannabis. Increased use of marijuana was attributed to alcohol prohibition. According to Brecher (1972), not until the eighteenth amendment and the Volstead Act of 1920 raised the price of alcohol beverages and made them less convenient to secure and inferior in quality did substantial commercial trade in marijuana for recreation use spring up, and the popularity soared, and that popularity has remained strong ever since.

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