My friend has aggressive breast cancer.
3 years ago
I told her about people's success with cannabis, and she was interested. But she is concerned that it might stop her from getting into a medical trial she might be a candidate for. I told her to ask her oncologist, but she is afraid to even bring up the subject. Should she be concerned about discussing this with her oncologist?
Answer - Dr Sherellen Gerhart
I agree with you and would encourage her to bring the topic up with her oncologist. Cancer patients often find relief from symptoms of cancer and cancer treatments with cannabis. Most oncologists are aware of the growing body of evidence that cannabis is helpful an may even be therapeutic for some cancer types. Your friend should feel empowered to discuss the possible risks and benefits of any treatment with her physician.
Clinical Oncology trials are strict because they have to be. Cannabis may or may not be a barrier to entry into a trial depending on the hypothesis, and what treatments are being observed. Trial coordinators and physicians have to understand all the variables impacting a patient's response to treatment and full disclosure of all medicinal therapies is key to assessing trial results. This is a very important reason to discuss with your physician. Knowing a patient's needs and concerns is the only way the physician is going to be able to counsel a patient toward the correct therapeutic choice.
I hope this is helpful. Wishing your friend the best.
Answer - Doctor Sharon Olson
This is obviously a challenging diagnosis but it leaves me with a question, why would your friend forgo treatment that very likely could help keep her in remission for an option that has no guarantees. Medical trials do not allow you or your doctor to know what the treatment is until the trial is complete and there is no guarantee that your friend would even receive the medication or treatment that is in the trial. I certain number of patients are maintained as "control patients" but no one knows that they are the control patients until the trial has been completed and they do not receive the medication, only a placebo or sham treatment. This might potentially have a devastating outcome for your friend. In addition there are so many things that can be done to support her health in overcoming the cancer that she will not be allowed to do because it could interfere with the study. Hopefully you can see and understand how devastating this could be to your friend's life. Even Dr. Mimi Guarneri, from Scripps clinic, points out that, "A 2008 study showed that women with breast cancer who were deficient in vitamin D---with levels less than 50 ng/mL---had a 94% greater chance of metastatic disease and a 73% greater chance of death in patients with levels over 50 ng/mL." So maybe it might make sense to boost her overall health and immune system to recover from the disease rather than playing potential Russian roulette in a clinical trial that may or may not help anyone. This does not mean she denies Western treatment. She may also want to read a book, "Sex, Lies and Menopause" by Wiley and Taguchi because we know breast cancer can come back even 30 years later so she must know what to do after the western medical treatment has been completed. This maybe a very challenging decision for her but she must be supported in her choice and the only way to know what options to choose is to be knowledgeable and unbiased while looking at her options. Good luck and I know you must care since you took the time to write to us on her behalf.