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Southern Illinois University Examining the Use of Cannabis for 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 started the Cannabis Science Center in … December 2018, when they took it off of the controlled substances lists and legalized use of industrial help nationwide,” said Buchanan in an interview with SIU’s college newspaper, The Daily Egyptian. “Since then there has been an amazing explosion.”

Buchanan explained that since the 2018 Farm Bill was passed, he has been interested in cannabis’s ability to treat cancer. “The vast majority of ovarian cancer research is focused toward extending what we call ‘progression-free survival,’” he added. “So it seems misguided to me that the focus of the research is on this incremental increase in life … so we’re really interested in prevention.”

Buchanan points out that rodents can be the most difficult to study. However, there are similarities between ovarian cancer and chickens. “But the chicken is kind of counterintuitive. It is also susceptible to ovarian carcinoma, just like women. Women give live birth and chickens lay eggs, but the ovaries are remarkably similar and the thing that makes them so similar is the number of lifetime ovulations.”

In his observations, he’s found that Omega-three acids have natural anti-inflammatory proteins that help heal scar tissue which develops during ovulation, ultimately reducing cancerous tissue growth. “The consequence of this is that it has a 70% reduction in the severity of cancer and a 30% reduction in the incidence, and all we did was introduce flax into their diet,” he said. “But we know nothing about how it works, so that’s our work.”

This finding has led researchers such as Graduate Student Didas Roy to explore how the body’s endocannabinoid system, specifically Receptor 1, works. “So in the endocannabinoid system, there are cannabinoids produced inside our bodies … and they’re binding to specific receptors, one and two,” said Roy. “So two is not that much expressed in the ovary, but receptor one is there in high abundance, and it seems like the expression of those receptors increases in cancer.”

More specifically, Roy’s current focus is on Transforming Growth Factor ß (TGF-ß) protein, which is present in the ovaries, as well as the endocannabinoid system. “We know TGF-ß is also implicated in cancer, so we are trying to see how the both of them are related to each other, who is controlling whom and how they’re contributing to the ovarian cancer,” Roy added. “TGF-ß is a family of many, many receptors and ligands, so I’m trying to look at all of them.”

According to American Cancer Society, around 19,880 women will get an ovarian carcinoma diagnosis during their lifetime. [in 2022]About 12,810 people will be affected by the disease, while approximately 12,810 others will also die. To further investigate how cannabis may reduce pain and save lives, more research is being done. A study was conducted in August 2019 to determine if CBD can be used for low-grade ovarian carcinoma. In September 2022, one study found that cannabis’s anti-cancer properties could help patients fight against ovarian cancer and chemotherapy resistance.

A growing number of researches have shown that cannabis can be used as an effective treatment for various types of cancer. A study that was published August 20, 2022, shows cannabis users have a lower risk of developing common liver cancer (or hepatocellular carcinoma) in comparison to other forms. This is a deadly form of cancer which kills approximately 19,000 and 11,000 people in the U.S. each year. A second study confirms that cannabis may be beneficial for cancer patients, as it can treat pain and reduce dependence on opioids. The opiates were responsible in excess of 923,000 U.S. deaths by 2020.