Tommy Chong: 'Cannabis Is a Cure for Prostate Cancer'
The marijuana enthusiast and stoner comedian says he's treating his recently diagnosed prostate cancer with cannabis. But what does the research say?
WEDNESDAY, June 13, 2012 — Tommy Chong, one-half of the stoner comedy duo “Cheech and Chong,” is famous for his marijuana-loving misadventures with Cheech Marin. So it should come as no surprise that when he was diagnosed with “slow stage I prostate cancer” recently, he turned to his favorite herb for a cure.
“I’m going to start treating it with cannabis oil, or hemp oil, or pot oil,” he told CNN’s Don Lemon on Saturday, citing Rick Simpson’s “Run From the Cure” video as his inspiration.
Chong, 74, was diagnosed with the disease last month but first noticed symptoms about eight years ago, when he was incarcerated at California’s Taft Correctional Institution for selling drug paraphernalia. He blames his time there, he told Lemon, for his current prostate problems.
“I was totally healthy when I went in jail…and then while I was in jail, I was clean as a whistle, and I started having problems with my prostate,” he said in the interview, adding that he also got gout from the food. “So, yeah, I think I got [the cancer] there.”
Chong was on air to discuss decriminalizing marijuana, which he says is now a personal health issue for him. “It means a lot more to me than just being able to smoke a joint without being arrested,” he said.
The longtime hemp enthusiast and self-proclaimed “holistic person” quit smoking altogether for about a year, “for health reasons.” Now he ingests hemp oil, which comes from cannabis but has fewer psychoactive effects, “so I won’t be woozy all day. I’m taking it as a medicine."
“Cannabis is a cure,” he told Lemon.
The Truth About Prostate Cancer and Cannabis
The “cure” claim is false, but components of cannabis have been shown to slow or even stop prostate cancer cell growth, according to a study published in the British Journal of Cancer. Spanish scientists from the University of Alcala in Madrid tested the effects of cannabinoids on human cell lines and found that the chemicals work in conjunction with specific molecules called CB2 receptors to stop the spread of prostate cancer.
“Our research shows that there are areas on prostate cancer cells which can recognize and talk to chemicals found in cannabis called cannabinoids,” study author Ines Diaz-Laviada, Ph.D., said in a statement. “These chemicals can stop the division and growth of prostate cancer cells and could become a target for new research.”
Experts warn that more data are needed to confirm these findings, and that even if the effects prove true, you’re not likely to get them from smoking a joint or scarfing down a pot-laced brownie. Any real cannabis-based cancer treatment would probably involve isolating and synthesizing the active chemicals in the plant and using them to engineer a drug — pharmaceutical, not recreational — that could attack the abnormal cells directly.
Symptom Relief From Medical Marijuana
That’s not to say that cannabis has no benefits for men with prostate cancer. Some research suggests that the active ingredients in medical marijuana, namely delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol, can improve a patient's appetite and sense of taste, relieve symptoms of pain and nausea, and even reduce anxiety. However, there’s also research that links cannabis to increased risk of sexual dysfunction, depression, memory loss, and testicular cancer. Clearly, scientists have more work to do.
“There are lots of alternative treatments for prostate cancer that have limited scientific and clinical studies,” says Craig Cooper, founder of Prostate.net, a Web site specializing in prostate cancer and other men’s health issues. “Medicinal marijuana seems to have qualities that can aid in the treatment of prostate cancer symptoms, but more studies are needed on the direct treatment of prostate cancer with cannabinoids.”
Should cannabis have a role in the treatment of cancer? What’s your opinion on medical marijuana? Tell us in the comments!
Epidiolex (CBD) in Patients With Biochemically Recurrent Prostate Cancer
Cannabinoids (CBD) have been widely used in medicines for centuries to control pain, nausea or vomiting, and to stimulate appetite, especially in cancer patients. Both cannabinoids receptor 1(CB1) and cannabinoids receptor 2 (CB2) were highly expressed in cultured prostate cancer cells compared to normal prostate cell lines. CBD inhibits tumor growth in xenograft model.
Clinicians have been challenged to improve the treatment of biochemically recurrent (BCR) prostate cancer in which prostatic specific antigen (PSA) rises without radiological or clinical progression years after localized treatment (radical prostatectomy or radiation therapy) with or without hormonal treatment. Approximately 50-90% of men with high-risk prostate cancer will experience a BCR. Based on the abovementioned preclinical observations of CBD’s effect on prostate cancer and its safety data in two non-cancer populations, a phase I study of CBD in men with biochemically recurrent prostate cancer will be conducted.