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CBD for Breast Cancer

What is Breast Cancer

Breast cancer, as the name suggests, is a type of cancer that develops in breast cells. Typically, the cancer forms in either the lobules (the glands that produce milk), or the ducts of the breast which are the pathways that bring the milk from the glands to the nipple. However, breast cancer cells can also appear in the fatty tissue as well as the fibrous connective tissue within the breast.

When cancer cells grow uncontrolled, they can often invade other healthy breast tissue, traveling to the lymph nodes under the arms. From there, the cancer cells can move to other parts of the body as the lymph nodes can act as a primary pathway for metastasis.

There are several types of breast cancer that are divided into two main categories: invasive and noninvasive / in situ. When cancer cells have spread from the breast ducts, lobules or tissues to other parts of the breast of body, it is classified as invasive. Noninvasive or in situ cancer has not spread from the original tissue.

Types of Breast Cancer

These two categories are used to describe the most common types of breast cancer, which include:

  • Ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS) is a noninvasive condition. With DCIS, the cancer cells are confined to the ducts in your breast and haven’t invaded the surrounding breast tissue.
  • Lobular carcinoma in situ (LCIS) is a cancer that grows in the milk-producing glands of your breast. Like DCIS, the cancer cells haven’t invaded the surrounding tissue.
  • Invasive ductal carcinoma (IDC) is the most common type of breast cancer. This type of breast cancer begins in your breast’s milk ducts and then invades nearby tissue in the breast. Once the breast cancer has spread to the tissue outside your milk ducts, it can begin to spread to other nearby organs and tissue.
  • Invasive lobular carcinoma (ILC) first develops in your breast’s lobules and has invaded nearby tissue.

Other, less common types of breast cancer include:

  • Angiosarcoma is when the breast cancer grows on the blood vessels or lymph vessels in the breast
  • Triple-negative breast cancer is when a tumor that lacks estrogen and progesterone receptors as well as the HER2 is a protein that fuels breast cancer growth.
  • Inflammatory breast cancer (IBC) is when cells block the lymph nodes near the breast so the lymph vessels in the breast can’t drain properly. Instead of creating a tumor, IBC causes the breast to swell, become red and feel warm, sometimes making the breast appear pitted and thick.
  • Male breast cancer is the same as breast cancer in women with the same symptoms, only much more rare and being 100 times less common.

Stages of Breast Cancer

The five stages of breast cancer depends on various factors, including whether the cancer is invasive or noninvasive, how large the tumor is, whether the lymph nodes are involved and if the cancer has spread to nearby tissue or organs.

Stage 0 is DCIS with cancer cells remain confined to the ducts in the breast and have not spread into nearby tissue.

Stage 1 is divided into two stages:

  • In stage 1A is when the primary tumor is 2 centimeters wide or less and the lymph nodes are not affected;
  • In stage 1B is when the cancer is found in adjacent lymph nodes, and there is either no tumor in the breast, or the tumor is smaller than 2 cm.

Stage 2 is also divided into two stages:

  • In stage 2A is when the tumor is smaller than 2 cm and has spread to one to three nearby lymph nodes, or is between 2 and 5 cm and hasn’t spread to any lymph nodes;
  • In stage 2B the tumor is between 2 and 5 cm and has spread to one to three axillary (armpit) lymph nodes, or it’s larger than 5 cm and hasn’t spread to any lymph nodes.

Stage 3 is divided into three stages:

  • In stage 3A the cancer has spread to 4 – 9 axillary lymph nodes or has enlarged the internal mammary lymph nodes, with the primary tumor being any size. Or, tumors are greater than 5 cm and the cancer has spread to 1–3 axillary lymph nodes or any breastbone nodes.
  • In stage 3B a tumor has invaded the chest wall or skin and may or may not have invaded up to 9 lymph nodes.
  • In stage 3C the breast cancer is found in 10 or more axillary lymph nodes, lymph nodes near the collarbone, or internal mammary nodes.
  • Stage 4 is when the primary tumor is of any size and cancer has metastasized and have spread to nearby and distant lymph nodes as well as distant organs.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

Different types of breast cancer can present with different symptoms, however many of the symptoms are similar. The most common of these include:

  • A breast lump or tissue thickening that feels different from surrounding tissue and has developed recently
  • Breast pain and/or swelling in all or part of the breast
  • Changes to the appearance of the skin on your breasts including red, pitted skin over your entire breast often with peeling, scaling, or flaking of skin on the nipple or breast
  • A nipple discharge other than breast milk or a bloody discharge from your nipple
  • A sudden, unexplained change in the shape or size of your breast
  • A newly inverted nipple
  • A lump or swelling under your arm

Breast Cancer Medications & Treatments

The type of treatment is usually dependent on the type, stage and severity of the breast cancer being treated.

Pharmaceutical / Surgical Interventions
Surgery is the most common treatment for breast cancer along with additional treatments such as chemotherapy. Surgery is designed to remove the breast cancer tissue and can be as non-invasive as simply removing the tumor (lumpectomy), to a full mastectomy in which either one, or both, breasts are removed in their entirety. Chemotherapy is a type of drug treatment that targets and destroy cells with the hope in shrinking the tumor to make surgery less invasive. However, chemotherapy has many unwanted side effects, often destroying healthy cells and the immune symptoms in the process as well.

Non-Pharmaceutical Interventions
Radiation therapy and hormone therapy are some non-pharmaceutical treatments often used in conjunction with the above-mentioned interventions. During radiation therapy, high-powered beams of radiation that target and kill cancer cells. Because breast cancer is sensitive to hormones, hormone therapy that blocks the body’s production of estrogen and progesterone can be prescribed to slow or possibly stop tumor growth. Similarly, Herceptin (trastuzumab) can block the production of the HER2 protein that helps breast cancer cell growth.

CBD for Breast Cancer

Research & Scientific Evidence

Cannabidiol (CBD) research has found that it has the potential to have effectively treated and reduce both the development and growth of breast cancer cells in a variety of ways.

In a 2011 in vivo study published in American Association for Cancer Research researchers investigated the effect of cannabinoids like CBD on reducing Id-1 expression in aggressive human breast cancers by using human breast cancer cell lines exposed to serum infused with THC, CBN, CBD, CBG, and CP55,940.

They found that CBD down-regulates Id-1 gene expression at the mRNA and protein level, reducing breast cancer cell invasion and metastasis, making it a low-toxicity and potentially effective treatment option for reducing tumor aggressiveness.

In another 2011 study published in Molecular Cancer Therapeutics examined the manner in which CBD induces apoptosis (cellular suicide) and autophagy (removing dead and damaged cells) in breast cancer cells using human breast cancer cell lines treated with a CBD-infused medium.

They found that some of the molecular mechanisms with which CBD induces apoptosis and autophagy, including the inhibition of the survival of both estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cell lines without having any effect on healthy breast cells. Similarly, CBD induced autophagy is fully cytodestructive by causing endoplasmic reticulum stress, reducing mitochondrial membrane potential and, ultimately, activating the intrinsic apoptotic pathway in breast cancer cells.

In a more recent 2015 study, the researchers investigated the inhibitory properties of CBD on the growth and metastatic properties of breast cancer cell lines using human breast cancer cell lines and exposing it to CBD.

They found that CBD inhibits breast cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion by modulating the signaling pathways responsible for it. They also found that CBD inhibits breast cancer growth, reducing tumor volume and weight both in vitro and in vivo. Similarly CBD also showed to inhibit the metastasis of aggressive breast cancer cells by decreasing the secretion of the enzymes responsible for tissue turnover.

Anecdotal Evidence
The media is full of celebrities like Olivia Newton-John and Melissa Etheridge claiming to use cannabinoids for their breast cancer. In addition, there are other stories of women like Rhonda Gossett who claim CBD oil has helped treat their breast cancer. However, most examples of people who claim to have treated their cancer used cannabis oil.

CBD as a Complementary Treatment

Cancer treatments like chemotherapy and radiation produce a variety of unpleasant side effects such as nausea, loss of appetite and eventual weight loss while breast cancer surgery and the cancer itself can be painful. CBD has the ability to ease chemotherapy induced pain, nausea and poor appetite resulting from cancer and cancer treatments.

Bottom Line

There is a lot of research focusing on the effects of CBD on breast cancer and the data shows that it has the potential to be an effective, non-toxic treatment that preserves healthy breast tissue. In addition to having several direct interactions on the ability of breast cancer cells to reproduce, grow, proliferate and metastasize, CBD can also help reduce many of the side effects of more traditional treatments like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation. Always speak to your treating oncologist before using CBD as they can also monitor dosage, symptom severity and other clinical parameters like drug interactions.

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Cannabidiol (CBD) research has found that it has the potential to have effectively treated and reduce both the development and growth of breast cancer cells in a variety of ways.

CBD oil and cancer: 9 things to know

BY Cynthia DeMarco

CBD oil (cannabidiol) is everywhere these days. Once available only at novelty or vitamin shops, it’s now also at your local grocery store, pharmacy or even yoga studio.

It comes in many forms: oils that are dropped under the tongue, roll-ons that are applied to the skin and even solutions for vaping. Some producers extract CBD oil and add it into foods to create edible products.

But what is CBD oil exactly, and how does it affect cancer patients? Can it really treat — or even cure — cancer or relieve its symptoms? To separate fact from fiction, we spoke with our Kimberson Tanco, M.D. Here’s what he wants cancer patients to know.

What is CBD oil, and how does it differ from marijuana and hemp?

Marijuana and hemp are both varieties of the cannabis sativa plant. Both contain cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the two most-common, known active ingredients.

The main difference is that hemp has far less THC than a typical marijuana plant. And unlike THC, CBD is not a psychoactive agent, so there’s less possibility that it will cause the same mental confusion, drowsiness or hallucinations that often come with THC.

Is there any truth to the claims that CBD oil can cure cancer?

Right now, no. There is no evidence that CBD oil can cure cancer.

What, if anything, can CBD oil do to alleviate the symptoms of cancer or the side effects of cancer treatment?

It’s hard to say if CBD oil can alleviate cancer symptoms or cancer treatment side effects, because the studies are pretty mixed and even fewer are standardized.

There have been reports that cannabinoids like THC and CBD may be helpful for nausea and vomiting and anorexia, as well as neuropathy, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Synthetic cannabinoids like dronabinol have been approved for use with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, but have not been shown to be superior to conventional anti-nausea medications.

Have any CBD-oil derived products been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat cancer, its symptoms, or the side effects caused by its treatment?

Have any products using CBD-oil been approved by the FDA to treat anything?

Yes. Epidiolex. It was originally approved in 2018 for the treatment of two conditions, both related to epilepsy: Lennox-Gastaut syndrome and Dravet syndrome. But aside from Epidiolex, no CBD product has been approved by the FDA for any other medical purpose.

What are the dangers of using CBD oil?

Quality, cleanliness and regulation are the biggest concerns.

All drugs and dietary supplements are regulated by the FDA. But as long as CBD oil is not marketed as a medicine or a dietary supplement, producers can get around that policy. So right now, CBD oil is very unregulated. That means it’s hard to know how much CBD or THC is really in any given product. Certain hemp CBD products have been found to contain significantly less CBD or more THC than advertised.

In terms of purity, THC and CBD are both extracted from hemp and marijuana using essentially similar processes. But trace amounts of THC could still end up in CBD oil. And if the THC is at a high enough concentration, it could produce the psychoactive effects that THC is known for.

Second, if a lab produces both CBD and THC products, there can be cross-contamination — whether it’s through extraction, handling or packaging.

Third, the plant itself may have higher levels of THC than expected. This could be due to its environment, prolonged flowering periods or cross-contamination and pollination between male and female plants, resulting in offspring with higher THC content. This especially affects hemp plants, which should have less than 0.3% THC levels.

Finally, there have been some reports of people getting infections after using CBD and cannabis products. This is especially concerning for immunocompromised patients, who are already susceptible to bacterial and fungal infections.

Studies on a certain CBD manufacturer showed its products were contaminated with a chemical known as 5F-ADB, which mimics THC. 5F-ADB is classified by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration as illegal, potentially addictive and with no accepted medical use.

Other sorts of substances have been found in CBD products, too, such as dextromethorphan, which is an ingredient in cough medicines. Heavy metals like lead and arsenic, pesticides and mold have also been found in CBD products.

Does CBD oil have any side effects?

CBD oil can adversely affect liver function. In fact, this is on the warning label for Epidiolex.

And in lab studies, CBD has been shown to inhibit certain enzymes responsible for the metabolism of drugs, such as CYP2D6 and CYP3A4. This can affect how drugs work and affect our bodies, either by reducing their efficiency or making them more dangerous. This includes chemotherapy and other medications.

This is very important for cancer patients to understand, as many people think CBD oil is not a medicine. They think of it more as a vitamin or a supplement, so they might not let their doctors know they’re using it. Patients might not realize it can be potentially harmful. So, it’s very important to tell your doctor if you’re using CBD oil.

Is CBD oil even legal?

CBD has a very complex legal status right now.

At the national level, any product of marijuana — including CBD — is still technically illegal when used medically. Although the 2018 Farm Bill legalized the production of hemp nationally, that’s only permitted if it’s not marketed for medical use or as a dietary supplement. CBD products intended for medical use should undergo an FDA review process.

State laws vary. In Texas, the Compassionate Use Act allows for the use of medical marijuana for certain conditions. Originally only for intractable epilepsy, the law was expanded this year to include cancer and certain neurodegenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s and multiple sclerosis.

But the application of this law is pretty jumbled right now. So, while it may be legal to use CBD in a state like Colorado or Alaska, if an employer follows federal regulations, the standardization and quality of a CBD product matters. Because if there’s even a small percentage of THC in that product, then a drug test might come back positive. And this could result in legal issues for the user.

What’s the most important thing cancer patients should know about CBD oil?

There’s still a lot to learn. So always let your health care team know if you are using CBD oil. That way, we can make sure nothing interacts adversely with your cancer treatments or other medications.

Also, avoid products with health-related claims on their labels. The only product approved by the FDA for its medical value is Epidiolex.

Wondering whether you should use CBD oil to cope with cancer treatment and its side effects? We spoke with Kimberson Tanco, M.D., to separate fact from fiction.