Some two-thirds of Israeli cancer patients authorized to use cannabis report long-term, symptomatic improvement from the plant, according to clinical data presented in late January at a conference of the Israeli Oncologists Union and reported this week in several international media outlets.
Investigators at the Sheba Medical Center in Tel Aviv, in conjunction with the Israeli Cancer Association, assessed the efficacy of cannabis therapy over the course of one year in 264 patients with cancer. Israeli media reported the findings:
“Some 61 percent of the respondents reported a significant improvement in their quality of life as a result of the medical marijuana, while 56 percent noted an improvement in their ability to manage pain. In general, 67 percent were in favor of the treatment, while 65 percent said they would recommend it to other patients.”
The study concluded that cannabis is an “effective” treatment for certain symptoms of the disease cancer and recommended, “The treatment should be offered to the patients in earlier stages of cancer.”
In the trial, the most common types of cancer for which medical marijuana was authorized was lung cancer (21 percent ), breast cancer (12 percent ) and pancreatic cancer (10 percent ).
The study focused primarily on the use of cannabis to relieve various symptoms of cancer or cancer treatment, such as pain and nausea, but did not evaluate whether marijuana therapy could potentially suppress the proliferation of the disease. In preclinical trials, various cannabinoids – including THC and CBD (cannabidiol) – have been shown to selectively target and eliminate malignant cells and cancerous tumors.
To date, some 6,000 Israelis possess government authorization to use cannabis therapeutically. Patients authorized by the federal program may either cultivate cannabis at home or they may obtain marijuana from one of the nation’s 12 licensed cannabis farms.
Last summer, the Israeli Health Ministry formally acknowledged the therapeutic utility of cannabis and announced newly amended guidelines to more effectively govern the state-sponsored production and distribution of medical marijuana. The Ministry estimates that as many as 40,000 patients will eventually have access to medicinal cannabis once the Israeli program is fully implemented.
NORML’s literature review of the anti-cancer properties of cannabis and cannabinoids is available here.