Of all the benefits that CBD potentially holds, arguably the ones most hoped-for are those that may bring relief to cancer patients. Among the flurry of studies that kicked off since the Farm Bill placed industrial hemp into a category separate from marijuana are several looking into the potential ways CBD may provide for cancer patients’ pain, appetite, nausea and – who knows – perhaps even prevention.
What ultimately comes from those studies remains to be seen, but at least one cancer organization is so hopeful by the promise of CBD, they’ve taken the extraordinary step of teaming up with Tree of Life Seeds, a Little Rock CBD product manufacturer.
“Cannabis and hemp can provide great complimentary care products for patients with pancreatic cancer,” says Kimberly Stoll-French, Chapter Development Director of the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation. “People who have been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer often experience pain, have trouble sleeping, suffer with nausea and have trouble keeping certain foods down. We encourage patients to try any possible therapy available to them that may help alleviate their suffering and aid in improving their overall wellness.”
Pancreatic cancer is generally one of the most dire diagnoses a patient can receive and is the fourth leading cause of cancer death, according to the NPCF. No specific, cost-effective screenings yet exist, which means the condition often goes undiscovered until its later stages when the cancer cannot be removed surgically and has likely spread to other parts of the body.
Overall, just over one in four individuals with pancreatic cancer survives a year after being diagnosed and just seven percent survive to the five-year mark. Survival rates improve dramatically when the disease is detected early enough to undergo surgery, but that still translates to just 26 percent of patients making it to their five-year anniversary. In situations where the cancer has spread, odds of survival deteriorate quickly.
“I have heard so many different people tell of the heartbreak of a family member who was hopeful because they had surgery scheduled and then they opened them up and it had spread, so they canceled the surgery,” Stoll-French said. “There are also people that, just because of how far along they are, may choose not to do the chemotherapy and radiation just what it does to quality of life.”
Given this, pancreatic cancer patients and their families often channel their energies into disease management, for which more and more are finding CBD an effective and welcomed ally. And that’s what led NPCF, which turns 10 this month, to look at CBD and its potential benefits for those who are living with the disease.
“When we are in contact with patients and families, we encourage them to use products that promote overall health and wellness,” Stoll-French said. “CBD is not just something that is specifically beneficial for pancreatic cancer patients. It’s beneficial for anyone because of the endocannabinoid system. It’s anti-addictive, it’s anti-tumoral, it’s a very potent anti-inflammatory, so you have all these positive aspects to it. There’s not really a way to lose in this situation.”
The nonprofit found Tree of Life Seeds online and after learning more about the company’s stringent testing protocols, decided to partner with the Little Rock based manufacturer to support their mission to fund research, patient advocacy, educational awareness, and direct financial assistance to those in need
“You have to make sure that the CBD product you’re getting is not pulling up toxins and then you’re ingesting something that is potentially harmful to your body,” Stoll-French said. “Tree of Life Seeds maintains strict quality control for its products. That and what their products offer in terms of benefits really got our attention.”
Meanwhile, the medical world continues to discover promising new evidence of the positive impact CBD can not only have in managing cancer symptoms, but the role it might one day play in treatment of the disease itself. A growing body of data suggests CBD is a powerful inhibitor of breast cancer cell proliferation, metastasis and tumor growth. One 2007 study describes in detail how CBD turns off the ID-1 gene, which acts as a cancer cell conductor.
“Cannabidiol offers hope of a non-toxic therapy that could treat aggressive forms of cancer without any of the painful side effects of chemotherapy,” says Dr. Sean McAllister of Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, who published the study’s results. Separate studies have yielded similarly promising results for patients with colon and bladder cancers.
For its part, Tree of Life Seeds is donating 10 percent of online product sales in May to the NPCF to help assist in research and services to patients and their families. Brian Madar, Tree of Life’s Chief Operating Officer, called the partnership a model for collaboration he’s eager to explore with similar nonprofits.
“Even though there’s still a lot of testing to be done, there’s no question that people are benefiting from the use of CBD,” said Madar. “We’re delighted to be partners with the National Pancreatic Cancer Foundation and we look forward to creating similar dialogue with other like-minded organizations. The more partnerships we have, the more people we can educate on the health benefits of CBD and, potentially, the more people we can help through our products.”