EPISODE #29 Cannabis As A Treatment For Cancer with Professor Dedi Meiri from Technion's Faculty of Biology

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This week, we are joined by Dedi Meiri (PhD), Associate Professor at the Faculty of Biology at the Technion and a member of the Technion Integrated Cancer Center where he runs the “Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research’’, one of the world’s largest cannabinoid research labs. Together, we speak about the current research being undertaken in Israel into using cannabinoids for the treatment of cancer, and what developments we can expect in the future. 

  

Episode Summary

  • Professor Dedi’s work investigates the therapeutic potential of phytocannabinoids, with a focus on the antitumor effects of cannabinoids. 

  • He founded the pioneering “Cannabis Database Project” and his lab is currently involved in a number of clinical trials covering diverse aspects of cannabis treatment such as colon disease, pain prevention, cancer treatment, sleep, and epilepsy.

  • Cancer is a collection of ‘diseases’ says Meiri. Cannabis refers to hundreds of different phytocannabinoids just the same way in which cancer refers to hundreds of different diseases. Determining which of these phytocannabinoids interact with certain cancers is no easy task as there are hundreds of combinations. At the moment, his lab are working with around 15 different types of cancer, some of which are showing promising results. Their aim is to understand which types of cannabis and which types of compounds affect different types of cancer, and what exactly is causing the reactions.

  • Today in Israel there are 49,000 patients who have been prescribed medical cannabis by a doctor or physician. Around 20,000 of those are estimated to be cancer patients. In a lot of cases, cannabis is prescribed to treat the side effects of chemotherapy and symptoms of cancer rather than the cancer itself. 

  • Professor Meiri predicts that as a result of research, in a few years time there will be specific cannabinoid treatments for specific cancers. There is no one size fits all.

  • A study of those prescribed medical cannabis in palliative care showed that quality of life increased due to increased appetite and mood, although cannabis only reduced the pain in 45% of patients.

  • Human cells are the basic units for life, they all communicate with each other within the body. It is a normal part of a cells lifestyle to break down - any moment, there are thousands of cells which are reaching the end of their lifecycle. In cancer, cells do not reach the end of this lifecycle, they can start to mutate and reproduce, becoming an aggressive cancer cell.

  • In terms of methodology, the lab starts with full spectrum whole plant extracts, once a strong effect is seen, it is narrowed down to specific singular or combinations of compounds which are actively affecting cells. 

  • You are unable to overdose on cannabis and there is no toxicity. 


Quotables

‘In 3, 4, or 5 years there will be specific types of cannabis which are a treatment for specific types of cancers, it won’t be all types of cannabis or treatments. Today, we don’t yet know which types of cannabis to take in order to treat diseases, it is still a lottery, and the percentage of success is so low that it cannot replace any conventional treatment. 08:40


Resources

Technion UK: https://technionuk.org/

Dedi’s personal website: https://dmeiri.net.technion.ac.il/
‘Behind the smokescreen of medical cannabis’ TEDxTelAviv Talk: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9ioJbVyNg08

Professor Meiri’s research papers: https://www.researchgate.net/profile/David_Meiri