Posted on May 23, 2008, Printed on May 24, 2008
In the 14 years I've worked in marijuana law reform, few events have struck me as so needlessly tragic as the federal government's consistent and deliberate stifling of medical cannabis research. Nowhere is the Fed's refusal to allow this science more overt and inhumane than as it pertains to the investigation of cannabinoids as anti-cancer agents, particularly in the treatment of gliomas.
As noted in today's wire stories regarding Sen. Edward Kennedy's diagnosis, glioma is an aggressive form of cancer that affects an estimated 10,000 Americans annually. Standard treatments for the cancer include radiation and chemotherapy, though neither procedure has proven particularly effective -- the disease kills approximately half its victims within one year and all within three years.
But what if there was an alternative treatment for gliomas that could selectively target the cancer while leaving healthy cells intact? And what if federal bureaucrats were aware of this treatment, but deliberately withheld this information from the public?
Fortunately, in the past 10 years scientists overseas have generously picked up where U.S. researchers so abruptly left off, reporting that cannabinoids can halt the spread of numerous cancer cells -- including prostate cancer, breast cancer, lung cancer, pancreatic cancer, and in one human clinical trial, brain cancer.
Writing earlier this year in the journal Expert Review of Neurotherapeutics, Italian researchers reiterated, "(C)annabinoids have displayed a great potency in reducing glioma tumor growth either in vitro or in animal experimental models. (They) appear to be selective antitumoral agents as they kill glioma cells without affecting the viability of nontransformed counterparts." Not one mainstream media outlet reported their findings. Perhaps now they'll pay better attention.
What possible advancements in the treatment of cancer may have been achieved over the past 34 years had U.S. government officials chosen to advance -- rather than suppress -- clinical research into the anti-cancer effects of cannabis? It's a shame we have to speculate; it's even more tragic that the families of Senator Kennedy and thousands of others must suffer while we do.
Watch a video of Paul Armentano explaining the relationship between cannabinoids and glioma.
Paul Armentano is the deputy director for the NORML Foundation in Washington, D.C.© 2008 NORML All rights reserved.
View this story online at: http://www.alternet.org/story/86256/