Case Study: Cannabis Helps Boy Fight Cancer
While working on the Cannabis As Medicine campaign a few months ago, I interviewed Mara Gordon from Aunt Zelda’s about some of her case studies – actual patients she’s worked with.
If you’re unfamiliar, Aunt Zelda’s is a nonprofit that has worked with more than 600+ patients (mostly cancer cases), using cannabis medicine as well as several other supplements.
One of the case studies involved a young boy stricken with an extremely malignant form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma (RMS).
I have a lot of respect for Mara and the entire Aunt Zelda’s team for all the work they do. And case studies like this are such a tremendous learning opportunity for all of us.
Below is the transcript of Mara discussing the patient’s case with some additional formatting for an easier read:
This patient was an 11-year-old boy whose mother came to us in the summer of 2013. He was going through chemo and he was experiencing the worst of every possible side effect. It was clear that he wasn’t going to be able to make it through the chemotherapy regimen completely without help.
When he came to us, he was using a different cannabis oil that he’d gotten from somebody and it wasn’t very good. It was made with and contained a lot of isopropyl alcohol – very disgusting. Even though it was helping him in some ways with the side effects of chemo, it was also giving him stomach cramps.
When they came to us, obviously we did a lab analysis on the oil and found out that it was problematic so recommended they throw it away and we got him started with clean medicine.
Peak Dosage Levels
He, at one point, was on as many as 700 mg of total cannabinoids (400 mg of THC and 300 mg of CBD given in separate doses) BUT that’s extremely unusual.
The reason why he was on such a high dose was because he had a stomach tube and they were giving him the oil through that. And the bioavailability of the cannabinoids when administered through that route is greatly decreased. So you have to give a whole lot more to get the same benefits.
We titrated him up to a therapeutic dose over time and of course when he was able to take the medicine sublingually, we were able to go way down on the dose. If it weren’t for the stomach tube we would have wanted him on about 250 to 300 mg of THC and 150 to 200 mg of CBD.
Combining Cannabis with Chemotherapy
I still remember the call we got from his mother, reporting that he had regained his appetite for the first time in months. And we were able to get him so that he could do the chemotherapy treatments without interruption and complete them all, which was truly remarkable because his oncologist didn’t think that was going to be possible.
He has since gone into remission and has stayed in remission, which is phenomenal. This particular type of cancer is known for its relapse, and chemotherapy has a very high success rate and it has a high relapse rate.
Studies have shown that when cannabinoids are combined with chemotherapy the synergy between the two actually creates more apoptosis (the killing and disappearing of cancer cells) than would occur otherwise because the cannabinoids help to protect the healthy cells while allowing the chemo to concentrate on the proliferating cells.
So in some cases the cannabis works better with chemo drugs and in his case it certainly did because it allowed him to finish the regimen of 14 different chemotherapy treatments in the original allotted time without missing a single month, which is what commonly happens – the patient has to skip a month because they’re still too sick to start the next round.
Additional Benefits and Supplements
The other thing it did was that he had missed 15 months of school and within three months he was back at his grade level.
He did have some difficulty with neuropathy, which is very common where you have a shortening of the legs and then he couldn’t put his feet down – but in his case he’d been doing a lot of exercises and a lot of work with acupuncture and we gave him a cannabis topical, which seemed to help.
We also had him on different supplements such as Turkey tail and all sorts of other mushrooms as well as curcumin and several other supplements.
Cannabis is not a panacea; it typically works best with other things because it’s not going to solve everything in the body.
Required: Cannabis Maintenance Dose
Now he’s on a maintenance dose of 75 mg per day of THC and 100 mg per day of CBD, and we will try to keep him at that for another year and then lower him by about another 50 percent.
He’ll have to be on cannabis the rest of his life. That’s one of the things about this, it’s not like you can stop and stay okay because when people stop using the cannabinoid therapies they usually relapse.
So first of all it’s not a cure – there’s no such thing as a cure for cancer. Not just because there hasn’t been one created yet but because there are conditions within the body where the chemotherapy and the radiation and all these things are necessary because cells have mutated in the body, and there’s nothing to stop that from continuing to happen.
Whether it’s endocannabinoid deficiency or whatever other conditions that are causing this in the body, environmental, epigenetics, etc., that a person gets sick to begin with, there’s no question that you have to keep the patient on some sort of maintenance dose.
And that’s really not any different if you are vitamin D deficient, vitamin B deficient, or iron deficient – you take supplements. These phytocannabinoids are simply supplementing deficiencies in our endocannabinoids.
If you have your own cannabis and cancer story you’d like to share, feel free to join the conversation in the comment section below!
Would you like to learn more about cannabis and cancer?