In light of Olivia Newton John’s cancer making a return, mainstream media is finally focusing on a natural healing method we know all too well: CBD oil. The Australian singer and actress — best known for her iconic role as the Danny Zuko-loving Sandy in Grease — has been turning to marijuana-derived cannabis oil as part of her cancer treatment, and the world wants to know more.
CBD is still in the early days of clinical research in the United States (thanks, government), but there’s already proof in the naturopathic pudding: this stuff works. The World Health Organization even issued a report in 2017 stating that CBD may have antitumor effects. Specifically, the report stated “CBD may have therapeutic benefits,” for a list of ailments, including cancer: “Antiproliferative and anti-invasive actions in a large range of cancer types; induction of autophagy-mediated cancer cell death; chemopreventive effects.”
When it comes to breast cancer specifically, there have been accounts of anecdotal evidence that albeit subjective, are quite powerful. Taria Camerino, a well-known culinary director, and acclaimed pastry chef shared an in-depth story of her fight against breast cancer with Bon Appetit. She described her journey with cancer, creating CBD chocolate for herself, and eventually turning it into a business. Today, her cancer is in remission, and what started as an “experiment” in her words became a line of tinctures and ganaches to help cancer patients the world over.
Incredible, yes — but again, anecdotal. So while we eagerly await the concrete, conclusive, clinical trials to prove all of this once and for all, here’s a look at what science has said so far on the matter of cannabis for carcinoma of the breast tissues.
CBD inhibited breast cancer tumor growth in rats. “Both cannabidiol and the cannabidiol-rich extract inhibited the growth of xenograft tumors,” (read: the tumors were put into the rats) according to a 2006 study in the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics.
- It may work similarly to chemo when it comes to tumors. Molecular Cancer Therapeutics reported in 2011 that their “study revealed an intricate interplay between apoptosis and autophagy in CBD-treated breast cancer cells and highlighted the value of continued investigation into the potential use of CBD as an antineoplastic agent.” In plain English, it looks like the CBD is working (on breast cancer specifically), let’s keep studying it to make sure.
- It could control aggressive tumors. In August of 2011, Breast Cancer Research and Treatment published a study that said, in effect, CBD can control aggressive breast cancer cells. Again, this was a study on rats, but the goal was to find “therapeutic interventions for aggressive and metastatic breast cancers,” since there are limited options available, and they found CBD to be an “effective, targeted, and non-toxic” therapy. A 2017 study in the Journal of Natural Medicines found similar results with “highly aggressive breast cancer,” but suggested further research.
- CBD might be the first nontoxic breast cancer treatment. Another study from Molecular Cancer Therapeutics (this one was from 2007) reported that “CBD represents the first nontoxic exogenous agent that can significantly decrease Id-1 expression in metastatic breast cancer cells leading to the down-regulation of tumor aggressiveness.”
- CBDA (the precursor to CBD) was proven to inhibit tumors. A Japanese study from 2014 concluded that “CBDA is an inhibitor of highly aggressive human breast cancer cell migration.”
In light of all these positive findings, we can hope that human clinical trials will be moving forward in the US in the near future. But because CBD is nontoxic and rarely has side effects, it can’t hurt to try. However, there is one consideration: CBD can potentially interfere with chemotherapy treatment, thanks to a liver enzyme called cytochrome p450. CBD occupies this enzyme while it is metabolized by the liver, which can result in improper amounts of chemotherapy getting into the body. If you’re currently undergoing chemo, it’s imperative that you discuss your CBD options with an oncologist to determine the best course of action.
And as for Olivia Newton John: her husband John Easterling is busy crafting her marijuana-derived CBD tinctures from the plants he grows on their Santa Barbara ranch. After going into remission following her 1992 breast cancer diagnosis, cancer returned again just earlier this year. She’s taking a natural approach for pain management and tumor downregulation, and CBD is at the forefront of that plan.
Written By: Dominique Michelle Astorino