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Leukemia is cancer of bone marrow blood cells. Studies have shown marijuana stimulates leukemia cell death, assists in the management of symptoms associated with cancer and traditional cancer treatments, and lowers the risk of complications following bone marrow transplants.
OVERVIEW OF LEUKEMIA
Leukemia is cancer of the body’s blood cells that form within the bone marrow and the lymphatic system. As cancerous blood cells form, they eventually crowd out healthy blood cells. According to the National Cancer Institute, while leukemia primarily affects adults over the age of 55, it is also the most common cancer in children under 15.
There are many types of leukemia. The most common form of leukemia involves white blood cells, which are essential for the body to effectively fight off infections. In leukemia, the bone marrow produces abnormal white blood cells that don’t function properly, which in turn weakens the immune system. Although not as common, red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body, and platelets, which are cells that clot the blood, can also become cancer.The cause of leukemia remains unknown, but it develops when blood cells acquire mutations or abnormalities in their DNA. These abnormalities cause them to grow and divide more rapidly. Leukemia is classified in two ways; chronic or acute and lymphocytic or myelogenous. Chronic leukemia grows slowly, progressing gradually over time, and involves mature blood cells. Acute leukemia grows fast, progressing very quickly, and involves immature blood cells. Lymphocytic leukemia affects lymphoid cells, while myelogenous leukemia affects myeloid cells.
The cause of leukemia remains unknown, but it develops when blood cells acquire mutations or abnormalities in their DNA. These abnormalities cause them to grow and divide more rapidly.Leukemia is classified in two ways; chronic or acute and lymphocytic or myelogenous. Chronic leukemia grows slowly, progressing gradually over time, and involves mature blood cells. Acute leukemia grows fast, progressing very quickly, and involves immature blood cells. Lymphocytic leukemia affects lymphoid cells, while myelogenous leukemia affects myeloid cells.
Leukemia is classified in two ways; chronic or acute and lymphocytic or myelogenous. Chronic leukemia grows slowly, progressing gradually over time, and involves mature blood cells. Acute leukemia grows fast, progressing very quickly, and involves immature blood cells. Lymphocytic leukemia affects lymphoid cells, while myelogenous leukemia affects myeloid cells.
Symptoms associated with leukemia can vary depending on type, but they commonly include fatigue and weakness, frequent infections, weight loss, fever or chills, easy bleeding or bruising, swollen lymph nodes, regular nosebleeds, tiny red spots on the skin, excessive sweating, and bone pain or tenderness.
Treatment of leukemia typically involves chemotherapy. Biological therapy, targeted therapy and radiation therapy are also used to combat leukemia. A stem cell transplant, which replaces diseased bone marrow with healthy bone marrow, may also be required.
FINDINGS: EFFECTS OF CANNABIS ON LEUKEMIA
Evidence suggests that cannabis shows potential as a viable treatment option for leukemia (Powles, et al., 2005). One of the major cannabinoids found in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been shown to induce apoptosis, or death, of leukemia cells (Powles, et al., 2005) (Jia, et al., 2006) .
Evidence has shown that a greater dose of cannabis is associated with a greater apoptosis response. One study found that combining THC treatment with additional established cytotoxic agents could further enhance leukemia cancer cell death (Liu, et al., 2008).
Cannabis has also been found to help cancer patients manage the nausea and vomiting associated with traditional cancer treatments and to stimulate appetite (Machado, et al., 2008).
AMERICAN STATES THAT HAVE APPROVED MEDICAL MARIJUANA FOR LEUKEMIA
Nearly all states with comprehensive medical marijuana programs have approved medical marijuana for the treatment of cancer, including leukemia. These states include: Alaska, Arkansas, Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii,Illinois, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Hampshire, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and West Virginia.
In Washington D.C., any condition can be approved for medical marijuana as long as a DC-licensed physician recommends the treatment. While the state of Maryland hasn’t approved medical marijuana specifically for leukemia, it may allow patients whose condition is causing “chronic pain” to use cannabis.
RECENT STUDIES ON CANNABIS’ EFFECT ON LEUKEMIA
- THC stimulates leukemia cell death.
Cannabis-induced cytotoxicity in leukemia cell lines: the role of the cannabinoid receptors and the MAPK pathway.
- Jia, W., Hedge, V.L., Singh, N.P., Sisco, D., Grant, S., Nagarkatti, M., and Nagarkatti, P.S. (2006, August). D9-Tetrahydrocannabinol-Induced Apoptosis in Jurkat Leukemia T Cells Is Regulated by Translocation of Bad to Mitochondria.Molecular Cancer Research, 4(8), 549-62. Retrieved fromhttp://mcr.aacrjournals.org/content/4/8/549.long.
- Kampa-Schittenhelm, K.M., Salitzky, O., Akmut, F., Illing, B., Kanz, L., Salih, H.R., and Schittenhelm, M.M. (2016). Dronabinol has preferential antileukemic activity in acute lymphoblastic and myeloid leukemia with lymphoid differentiation patterns.BMC Cancer,16, 25. Retrieved fromhttps://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4715874/.
- Leukemia. (2015, March 26).Mayo Clinic. Retrieved fromhttp://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/leukemia/basics/definition/con-20024914.
- Leukemia-for patients. (n.d.).National Cancer Institute. Retrieved fromhttp://www.cancer.gov/types/leukemia.
- Liu, W.M., Scott, K.A., Shamash, J., Joel, S., and Powles, T.B. (2008, September). Enhancing the in vitro cytotoxic activity of Delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol in leukemic cells through a combinatorial approach.Leukemia & Lymphoma, 49(9), 1800-9. Retrieved fromhttp://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10428190802239188?needAccess=true.
- Machado Rocha, F.C., Stefano, S.C., De Cassia Haiek, R., Rosa Oliveira, L.M., and Da Silveira, D.X. (2008, September). Therapeutic use of Cannabis sativa on chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting among cancer patients: systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Cancer Care, 17(5), 431-43. Retrieved fromhttp://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/wol1/doi/10.1111/j.1365-2354.2008.00917.x/full.
- Powles, T., te Poele, R., Shamash, J., Chaplin, T., Propper, D., Joel, S., Oliver, T., and Liu, W.M. (2005, February 1). Cannabis-induced cytotoxicity in leukemia cell lines: the role of the cannabinoid receptors and the MAPK pathway.Blood, 105(3), 1214-21. Retrieved fromhttp://www.bloodjournal.org/content/105/3/1214.long?sso-checked=true.