Southern Illinois University is studying the use of cannabis in ovarian cancer
SIU researcher Dr. Dale “Buck” Buchanan, who is also a professor of physiology at the university, is a founding member of the Cannabis Science Center. “We established the Cannabis Science Center in … December 2018, when it was removed from the controlled substance lists and the use of industrial aid was legalized nationwide,” Buchanan said in an interview with SIU’s college newspaper, The Daily Egyptian. “Since then there has been an amazing explosion.”
Buchanan explained that he has been interested in cannabis’ ability to treat cancer since the passage of the 2018 Farm Bill. “The vast majority of ovarian cancer research is focused on prolonging what we call ‘progression-free survival,'” he added. “So it seems misguided to me that the focus of research is on this incremental extension of life… so we’re really interested in prevention.”
Although rodents are the easiest to study, Buchanan notes that there is a similarity between chickens and ovarian cancer. “But the chicken is kind of counterintuitive. It gets the same ovarian cancer that women get. Females give live birth and hens lay eggs, but the ovaries are remarkably similar and what makes them so similar is the number of lifetime ovulations.”
In his observations, he has found that omega-3 acids contain natural anti-inflammatory proteins that help heal scar tissue that develops during ovulation and ultimately reduce cancerous tissue growth. “As a result, there’s a 70 percent reduction in the severity of cancer and a 30 percent reduction in incidence, and all we did was add flax to their diets,” he said. “But we don’t know anything about how it works, so that’s our job.”
This finding has prompted researchers like PhD student Didas Roy to study how the body’s endocannabinoid system, specifically receptor 1, works. “So in the endocannabinoid system, cannabinoids are made in our bodies… and they bind to specific receptors, one and two,” Roy said. “So two isn’t expressed as much in the ovary, but receptor one is abundant there, and it seems like the expression of these receptors increases in cancer.”
In particular, Roy is currently focusing on the Transforming Growth Factor ß (TGF-ß) protein present in the ovaries and the endocannabinoid system. “We know that TGF-ß is also involved in cancer, so we’re trying to see how the two are related, who controls who, and how they contribute to ovarian cancer,” Roy added. “TGF-ß is a family of many, many receptors and ligands, so I’m trying to look at them all.”
According to the American Cancer Society, approximately 19,880 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in their lifetime [in 2022], and about 12,810 women will die from the condition. More waves of research are being conducted to further explore how cannabis can alleviate suffering and potentially even save lives. In August 2019, a study examined the effectiveness of CBD for treating low-grade ovarian cancer. In September 2022, a study found that cannabis’ cancer-fighting properties could help patients fight ovarian cancer and chemotherapy resistance.
There is a growing source of studies identifying cannabis as a beneficial treatment for many types of cancer as well. A study published in August 2022 shows that cannabis users are less likely to develop common liver cancer, or hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), which affects approximately 25,000 men and 11,000 women annually in the US (and kills approximately 19,000 men and 9,000 women each year). . Another study shows how cannabis can benefit cancer patients by managing pain and reducing their addiction to opiates, which were responsible for more than 923,000 US deaths in 2020.