Early in 1972, after the death of Sidney Farber, the Harvard children's oncologist for whom the Sidney Farber Cancer Research Center was named, my wife and I were invited to dinner at the home of a fellow Harvard Medical School faculty member. He wanted me to meet Emil Frei, who had arrived from Houston to serve as Dr. Farber's successor.
At dinner, Dr. Frei told me about an eighteen-year-old Houston man with leukemia who had become more and more resistant to cancer chemotherapy because he could no longer tolerate the nausea and vomiting. His doctors and his family were finding it increasingly difficult to persuade him to take the drug on which his life depended.
One day, to Dr. Frei's surprise, the young man willingly agreed to take the drug and from then on offered no resistance to chemotherapy. He eventually revealed that he had been smoking marijuana twenty minutes before each session; it prevented all vomiting and even the slightest hint of nausea. Dr. Frei asked me whether this property was mentioned in the nineteenth-century medical literature on cannabis, and I told him that it was. On the way home my wife Betsy, who had listened with great interest, suggested that we obtain some cannabis for our son Danny.
Danny was first given the diagnosis of acute lymphatic leukemia in July 1967; he was ten years old. For the first few years he was good natured about his treatment at Children's Hospital in Boston, and even about the occasional need for hospitalization. But in 1971 he started taking the first of the drugs that cause severe nausea and vomiting.
Danny was one of those patients in whom these reactions were uncontrollable and not sufficiently alleviated by standard antiemetics. He would start to vomit shortly after treatment and continue retching for up to eight hours. He vomited in the car as we drove home, and on arriving he had to lie in bed with his head over a bucket on the floor. Still, I was shocked when Betsy suggested that we find cannabis for Danny. I objected because it was against the law and because it might embarrass staff members at the hospital, who had been so remarkable in their commitment to Danny's care. I dismissed the idea.
Danny's next treatment was two weeks later. When I arrived, Betsy and Danny were already in the treatment room. I shall never forget my surprise. Normally my wife and son were in a state of great anxiety before the treatment began, but this time they were completely relaxed, and, what is more, seemed almost to be playing a joke on me.
Finally they let me in on the secret. On the way to the clinic that morning they had stopped near Wellesley High School, and Betsy had asked one of Danny's friends to get her some marijuana. Once he recovered from his disbelief, the friend had run off and reappeared a few minutes later with a small amount of marijuana. Betsy and Danny had smoked it in the parking lot of the hospital just before entering the clinic.
My surprise gave way to relief as I saw how comfortable Danny was. He did not protest as he was given the medicine, and we were all delighted when no nausea or vomiting followed. On the way home he asked his mother if he could stop for a submarine sandwich, and when he got home he began his usual activities instead of going straight to bed. We could scarcely believe it.
The next day I called Dr. Norman Jaffe, the physician who was in charge of Danny's care. I explained what had happened and said that while I did not want to embarrass him or the rest of the medical staff, I could not forbid Danny to smoke marijuana before his next treatment. Dr. Jaffe responded by suggesting that Danny smoke marijuana in his presence in the treatment room.
Danny did that the next time. When he was given the chemotherapeutic agent, Dr. Jaffe could observe for himself that he was completely relaxed. Afterward he again asked for a submarine sandwich. From then on he used marijuana before every treatment, and we were all much more comfortable during the remaining year of his life.
Doctor Jaffe asked me to join him in reporting our observations to Dr. Frei, who was sufficiently interested to perform the first clinical experiment on the use of cannabis in cancer chemotherapy. [Sallan SE, Zinberg NE, and Frei III E. Antiemetic effect of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol in patients receiving cancer chemotherapy. New Eng. J. Med 293 (1975): 7975-797]. (TOP)
Osteoarthritis is the most common of all joint diseases, affecting sixteen million people in the United States alone, including two-thirds of those over sixty-five. It usually develops slowly over many years as the layer of shock-absorbing cartilage that protects the ends of bones breaks down, exposing them and allowing them to grind together. The breakdown of cartilage probably results from poor joint alignment or an accumulation of everyday minor traumatic injuries. The main symptoms are joint stiffness, swelling, and pain, especially in the morning. As the loss of cartilage progresses, irritating the soft tissue around the joint, pain may become constant and interfere with sleep. The disease occurs equally in both men and women; men are affected especially in the hips and back, women in the hands, and both sexes in the knees.
The following account is by Kay Lee, an osteoarthritis sufferer who uses marijuana:
I am fifty-one years old. I have raised five children to productive adulthood pretty much single-handedly, and now have four happy grandchildren. I just completed my third year of study toward a BSOP [Business Operations] degree, while living alone most of the time. I rather enjoy the challenge. Three years ago I began researching the subject of marijuana as a medicine for a term paper. I chose this topic because, after nearly thirty years of recreational, creative, and therapeutic use, I now relegate most of my cannabis to the medicine cabinet -- exactly as my grandmother did before the politicians just said "no."
During my five-year bout with migraines, marijuana replaced Demerol injections many times; for PMS and cramps, it replaced Mydol and aspirin; for colds, it replaced expectorants, suppressants, decongestants, antihistamines, and analgesics. When I had to pull myself out of Depression after my oldest son drowned, marijuana substituted for Valium and lithium. And now I use it for the chronic pain of arthritis.
Until you or someone you love tries to deal with arthritis, you cannot understand how destructive it is to the quality of life. My mother died at the age of sixty-three, physically much older than her biological age. Doctors couldn’t agree on whether she had Alzheimer’s or severe depression, but no one misdiagnosed her arthritis. In the last ten years of her life her hands became crippled, deformed, and nearly useless. Hot wax gloves, ace bandages, creams, and pain medications were of no avail. Her tiny, misshapen fingers twisted and curled over each other, some facing the wrong way; her pain was constant and merciless.
For the last couple of years my own hands have begun to take a central place in my life. Doctors tell me an injury triggered a propensity that was already there. I have lost most of the strength in my left hand, and pain in both hands is a loud reminder to limit my movements. The ache involves the knuckles, middle joints, and wrists; cold weather or the slightest injury makes it worse. It is getting hard to lift things and open cans. My fingers become stiff from inaction, from too much action, or from the wrong actions. My sleep is disturbed.
When I smoke what I call "kind medicine", it's never more than three or four minutes before the ache begins to fade. Although it is still there, it seems to have moved into the distance. The physical relief lasts hours longer than the actual high. I try to get a lot done while I am still feeling it.
The ideal dose for me is a half joint every four hours. Since I can't always afford to buy that much, when I have some I limit myself to a half joint twice a day -- once in the morning to work and once at night to sleep. When I run out, I simply suffer until I can afford more, and then take on the unpleasant and dangerous task of trying to find cannabis of medicinal quality. I used to worry about people knowing I was high, but no one notices, so I have stopped worrying.
My mother died in despair, robbed of this gentle medicine by politics. She refused to try marijuana because of the misinformation spread by the government and anti-marijuana groups. Once my aunt complained to my mother that her son, my cousin, had dropped out of school and was smoking pot. My mother replied, "You know, marijuana makes people stupid." Later I asked her, "Do you think I’m stupid?" she looked at me with astonishment and said, "Of course not." I told her I smoked marijuana. Trembling with fear, she said, "I often thought I would try it if a doctor would make sure nothing went wrong." But no doctor would have helped her, and anyway, my father, with his snapped-shut mind, would have turned us all in. I should have educated her anyway, but I didn't know what I know now. I’m sorry it’s too late for her. As for me, I have decided to spread the word for the sake of everyone who needs this medicine or cares about someone who could benefit from it.
Chronic pain such as the pain of osteoarthritis is usually treated with opioid narcotics or various synthetic analgesics, but these drugs have many limitations. Opioids are addictive and tolerance develops. The most commonly used synthetic analgesics -- aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen -- are not addictive, but they are often insufficiently powerful. Furthermore, they have serious toxic side effects, including gastric bleeding or ulcers and, in the long run, a risk of liver or kidney disease. Stomach bleeding and ulcers induced by aspirin and other NSAIDs are the most common serious adverse drug reactions reported in the United States. These drugs may be responsible for as many as 76,000 hospitalizations and more than 7,600 deaths annually. Heavy drinkers (more than six ounces of alcohol a day) are especially sensitive to the gastrointestinal effects of NSAIDs. Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is increasingly prescribed instead because it largely spares the digestive tract, but it can cause liver damage or kidney failure when used regularly for long periods. Medical researchers have estimated that patients who take one to three acetaminophen tablets a day for a year or more account for about 8-10 percent of all cases of end-stage renal disease, a condition that is fatal without dialysis or a kidney transplant. Given the limitations of opioids and the non-addictive synthetic analgesics, one might have expected pain specialists to take a second look at cannabis, but the medical literature again suggests little reconsideration.
Pot Shrinks Tumors; Government Knew in '74
Raymond Cushing, AlterNet
May 31, 2000
Viewed on April 1, 2004
The term medical marijuana took on dramatic new meaning in February, 2000 when researchers in Madrid announced they had destroyed incurable brain tumors in rats by injecting them with THC, the active ingredient in cannabis.
The Madrid study marks only the second time that THC has been administered to tumor-bearing animals; the first was a Virginia investigation 26 years ago. In both studies, the THC shrank or destroyed tumors in a majority of the test subjects.
Most Americans don't know anything about the Madrid discovery. Virtually no major U.S. newspapers carried the story, which ran only once on the AP and UPI news wires, on Feb. 29, 2000.
The ominous part is that this isn't the first time scientists have discovered that THC shrinks tumors. In 1974 researchers at the Medical College of Virginia, who had been funded by the National Institute of Health to find evidence that marijuana damages the immune system, found instead that THC slowed the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice -- lung and breast cancer, and a virus-induced leukemia.
The DEA quickly shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis/tumor research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on the events in his book, "The Emperor Wears No Clothes." In 1976 President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies, who set out -- unsuccessfully -- to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the "high."
The Madrid researchers reported in the March issue of "Nature Medicine" that they injected the brains of 45 rats with cancer cells, producing tumors whose presence they confirmed through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). On the 12th day they injected 15 of the rats with THC and 15 with Win-55,212-2 a synthetic compound similar to THC. "All the rats left untreated uniformly died 12-18 days after glioma (brain cancer) cell inoculation ... Cannabinoid (THC)-treated rats survived significantly longer than control rats. THC administration was ineffective in three rats, which died by days 16-18. Nine of the THC-treated rats surpassed the time of death of untreated rats, and survived up to 19-35 days. Moreover, the tumor was completely eradicated in three of the treated rats." The rats treated with Win-55,212-2 showed similar results.
The Spanish researchers, led by Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutense University, also irrigated healthy rats' brains with large doses of THC for seven days, to test for harmful biochemical or neurological effects. They found none.
"Careful MRI analysis of all those tumor-free rats showed no sign of damage related to necrosis, edema, infection or trauma ... We also examined other potential side effects of cannabinoid administration. In both tumor-free and tumor-bearing rats, cannabinoid administration induced no substantial change in behavioral parameters such as motor coordination or physical activity. Food and water intake as well as body weight gain were unaffected during and after cannabinoid delivery. Likewise, the general hematological profiles of cannabinoid-treated rats were normal. Thus, neither biochemical parameters nor markers of tissue damage changed substantially during the 7-day delivery period or for at least 2 months after cannabinoid treatment ended."
Guzman's investigation is the only time since the 1974 Virginia study that THC has been administered to live tumor-bearing animals. (The Spanish researchers cite a 1998 study in which cannabinoids inhibited Breast Cancer cell proliferation, but that was a "petri dish" experiment that didn't involve live subjects.)
In an email interview for this story, the Madrid researcher said he had heard of the Virginia study, but had never been able to locate literature on it. Hence, the Nature Medicine article characterizes the new study as the first on tumor-laden animals and doesn't cite the 1974 Virginia investigation.
"I am aware of the existence of that research. In fact I have attempted many times to obtain the journal article on the original investigation by these people, but it has proven impossible." Guzman said.
In 1983 the Reagan/Bush Administration tried to persuade American universities and researchers to destroy all 1966-76 cannabis research work, including compendiums in libraries, reports Jack Herer, who states, "We know that large amounts of information have since disappeared."
Guzman provided the title of the work -- "Antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids," an article in a 1975 Journal of the National Cancer Institute -- and this writer obtained a copy at the University of California medical school library in Davis and faxed it to Madrid.
The summary of the Virginia study begins, "Lewis lung adenocarcinoma growth was retarded by the oral administration of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabinol (CBN)" -- two types of cannabinoids, a family of active components in marijuana. "Mice treated for 20 consecutive days with THC and CBN had reduced primary tumor size."
The 1975 journal article doesn't mention Breast Cancer tumors, which featured in the only newspaper story ever to appear about the 1974 study -- in the Local section of the Washington Post on August 18, 1974. Under the headline, "Cancer Curb Is Studied," it read in part:
"The active chemical agent in marijuana curbs the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice and may also suppress the immunity reaction that causes rejection of organ transplants, a Medical College of Virginia team has discovered." The researchers "found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."
Guzman, writing from Madrid, was eloquent in his response after this writer faxed him the clipping from the Washington Post of a quarter century ago. In translation, he wrote:
"It is extremely interesting to me, the hope that the project seemed to awaken at that moment, and the sad evolution of events during the years following the discovery, until now we once again Śdraw back the veil‚ over the anti-tumoral power of THC, twenty-five years later. Unfortunately, the world bumps along between such moments of hope and long periods of intellectual castration."
News coverage of the Madrid discovery has been virtually nonexistent in this country. The news broke quietly on Feb. 29, 2000 with a story that ran once on the UPI wire about the Nature Medicine article. This writer stumbled on it through a link that appeared briefly on the Drudge Report web page. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times all ignored the story, even though its newsworthiness is indisputable: a benign substance occurring in nature destroys deadly brain tumors.
Raymond Cushing is a journalist, musician and filmmaker. This article was named by Project Censored as a "Top Censored Story of 2000."
#22 U.S. Government Repressed Marijuana-Tumor Research
#22 U.S. Government Repressed Marijuana-Tumor Research
May 31, 2000
Title: Pot Shrinks Tumors; Government Knew in ‘74
Author: Raymond Cushing
Faculty Evaluator: Mary King M.D.
Student researchers: Jennifer Swift, Licia Marshall,
Corporate media coverage: AP and UPI news wires 2/29/00
A Spanish medical team’s study released in Madrid in February 2000 has shown that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active chemical in marijuana, destroys tumors in lab rats. These findings, however, are not news to the U.S. government. A study in Virginia in 1974 yielded similar results but was suppressed by the DEA, and in 1983 the Reagan/Bush administration tried to persuade U.S. universities and researchers to destroy all cannabis research work done between 1966 and 1976, including compendiums in libraries.
The research was conducted by a medical team led by Dr. Manuel Guzman of Complutence University in Madrid. In the study, brains of 45 lab rats were injected with a cancer cell, which produced tumors. On the twelfth day of the experiment, 15 of the rats were injected with THC and 15 with Win-55, 212-2, a synthetic compound similar to THC. The untreated rats died 12-18 days after the development of the tumors. THC treated rats lived significantly longer than the control group. Although three were unaffected by the THC, nine lived 19-35 days, while tumors were completely eradicated in three others. The rats treated with Win-55,212-2 showed similar results.
In an e-mail interview for this story, the Madrid researcher said he had heard of the Virginia study, but had never been able to locate literature on it. "I am aware of the existence of that research. In fact I have attempted many times to obtain the journal article on the original investigation by theses people, but it has proven impossible," Guzman said. His response wasn’t surprising, considering that in 1983 the Reagan/Bush administration tried to persuade American universities and researchers to destroy all 1966/76 cannabis research work, including compendiums in libraries, reports Jack Herer. "We know that large amounts of information have since disappeared," he says.
Guzman provided the title of the work—"Antineoplastic Activity of Cannabinoids," an article in a 1975 Journal of the National Cancer Institute—and author Raymond Cushing obtained a copy at the UC Medical School Library in Davis, California, and faxed it to Madrid. The 1975 article does not mention Breast Cancer tumors, which were featured in the only newspaper story ever to appear about the 1974 study in the local section of the Washington Post on August 18, 1974. The headline read, "Cancer Curb Is Studied," and was followed in part by, "The active chemical agent in marijuana curbs the growth of three kinds of cancer in mice and may also suppress the immunity reaction that causes rejection of organ transplants, a Medical College of Virginia team has discovered. The researchers found that THC slowed the growth of lung cancers, breast cancers, and a virus-induced leukemia in laboratory mice, and prolonged their lives by as much as 36 percent."
Drug Enforcement Agency officials shut down the Virginia study and all further cannabis research, according to Jack Herer, who reports on these events in his book, The Emperor Wears No Clothes. In 1976, President Gerald Ford put an end to all public cannabis research and granted exclusive research rights to major pharmaceutical companies. These companies set out—unsuccessfully—to develop synthetic forms of THC that would deliver all the medical benefits without the "high."
Update by Raymond Cushing
When I was a cub reporter twenty-eight years ago at the daily Advocate in Stamford, Connecticut, my first city editor—a white-haired veteran of the International Herald Tribune named Marian Campbell—told me that the cure for cancer was the holy grail of all news stories.
"Unless they discover the cure for cancer," she would say over the clackety-clack of the manual typewriters, "this paper goes to press on time."
What I found out a quarter-century later is that not even the cure for cancer is a big enough story to crack the Berlin Wall of media censorship in this country. Toss in the facts that the cure appears to be a benign substance that has been illegal for 63 years, and that the government knowingly suppressed evidence of its curative powers 25 years, and you get twice the storyćand twice the censorship.
I won’t name the "investigative journalists" who didn’t respond when I sent them this story. I won’t list the numerous "progressive" publications that ignored it. I won’t describe the forbidding sense of professional isolation I endured in the months I tried to place the story.
Suffice it to say that it’s what one would expect in a society that has criminalized its own young for two generations around the cannabis issue simply because we were told to do so.
Thousands of innocent people who are in U.S. prisons for possessing or selling "the cure for cancer" await liberation and reparations. Someday our grandchildren will look back and ask, "What did you do to set the cannabis prisoners free?"
Here’s what any responsible journalist should be doing:
Go to primary sources when evaluating cannabis research. The AP and other news organizations love to elevate "bad science" and suppress "good science" when it comes to cannabis. You have to read the original research articles yourself and make your own judgments.
Investigate and report on the war on children that is a major component of the war on drugs. The marijuana laws are the main tool the police use to persecute minors. No other policy affects more families in more insidious and devastating ways than cannabis prohibition.
Learn about the history of cannabis prohibition and about the pharmaceutical, liquor, and tobacco giants that are behind it. If you don’t know the history of cannabis and hemp prohibition, you’re too ignorant to justifiably call yourself a journalist.
If it turns out—as my story would seem to indicate—that cannabis is the cure for cancer and the government suppressed this information for 25 years (and continues to suppress it), then the body count alone will make this the biggest holocaust in recorded history. Virtually all federal drug policy makers of both parties since 1975—including legislators, presidents and the DEA—will be complicit and criminally liable.
That’s why they don’t want this story covered.
To learn the history of cannabis prohibition, read www.jackherer.com. To read my story, type in the address at the beginning of this segment.
Raymond Cushing: email@example.com
Isn't it the coolest thing that they are reporting that POT shrinks brain tumors!!! WOW!