Cannabis for Cancer: If, Who, When, Why and How

Abrams bio pic


“If there is one medicine you can recommend that will take care of pain, nausea, appetite, sleep, [and] anxiety instead of writing prescriptions for five different medicines that all might interact with each other or the chemotherapy, or whatever cancer treatment the patient is getting, I think it’s a useful drug.” -Dr. Donald Abrams, M.D.

Dr. Donald Abrams, M.D. is an integrative oncologist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California San Francisco, and was chief of the Hematology-Oncology Division at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital from 2003-2017. He became a fellow in Hematology-Oncology at the UCSF Cancer Research Institute in 1980 during the time the first cases of AIDS were being diagnosed. He was one of the original clinician/investigators to recognize many of the early AIDS-related conditions. He conducted numerous clinical trials investigating conventional as well as complementary therapies in patients with HIV including therapeutic touch, Traditional Chinese Medicine interventions, medicinal mushrooms, medical marijuana and distant healing. It was his work with these patients that brought Dr. Abrams into the world of using cannabis for medicinal purposes. Since completing a Fellowship in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona, Dr. Abrams has been providing Integrative Medicine consultation to people living with and beyond cancer at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. He co-edited the textbook Integrative Oncology with Dr. Andrew Weil, M.D.

Our discussion includes:

  • Does cannabis cure cancer?
  • Cannabis (also known as Marijuana) key terms and historical context
  • Pros and cons of cannabis for cancer patients and survivors
  • Symptoms cannabis can be used for
  • Optimal methods of consumption
  • Is it bad for you or dangerous?
  • Research and evidence

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Show Notes:
Introduction to cannabis (marijuana) and key terms [6:55]
HIV/AIDS & cancer comparison [14:00]
Areas of hope [17:07]
Integrative oncology overview [17:42]
How Dr. Abrams started using cannabis as medicine [19:42]
“Cancer is like a weed” [21:14]
Prevalence of complementary interventions. Studies mentioned: Deng & Cassileth, Richardson, Sanders, Palmer, Greisinger, & Singletary [21:43]
Evidenced-based and evidence-informed [23:59]
Researching cannabis (NIDA) (University of Mississippi) [25:55]
Evidence on cancer and cancer treatment side effects: chemotherapy induced nausea & vomiting (CINV), appetite stimulation, pain, anti-inflammatory, neuropathy, anxiety, depression, sleep [30:33]
Cannabis as a cure for cancer, brain cancer research, & Dr. Manuel Guzman [35:46] Study of cannabinoids combined with temozolomide against glioma (brain cancer)
Cannabis as an alternative to conventional treatment [38:03]
Brain cancer and CB1 & CB2 receptors [39:37]
CB1 & CB2 receptor expression in various cancers (see table 1). Also an excellent summary of cannabis as an anti-cancer agent.
CBD modulating THC effects [40:22]
Method, dosing, and strains guidance [45:00]
Pros & cons of consumption methods [48:38]
Smoking cannabis and adverse pulmonary effects, lung cancer risk [51:40]
Overdosing and addiction risk [55:11]
Obstacles and downsides [56:07]
Gardening and growing medicine [59:10]
3 Questions from Dr. Abrams [59:35]


More Links:
Dr. Abrams bio and links to some of his presentations (covering cancer nutrition, supplements, and more)
Legality of medical and recreational cannabis by United States jurisdiction (Wikipedia) Laws are rapidly changing. Many jurisdictions are legalizing and regulating cannabis, so research your country/state’s rules online to make sure you have the most up-to-date laws.
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