Cannabis Patient Care - November 2021

Cannabis Patient Care November Issue

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16 cannabis patient care | vol. 2 no. 3 patient focus Cannabis for Cancer: The Fight to Get Mainstream Medicine Onboard B Y D A V I D H O D E S T HE QUESTION OF whether cannabis can be a treat- ment for cancer has intrigued researchers for years. But as more and more patient and doctor anecdotes about using cannabis for cancer treatment begin to surface, there is a growing expectation that this ancient med- icine may actually be able to do more. One of those stories of cannabis treatment for cancer comes from cancer survivor Nicole DiMonda, who, along with her husband, Jaime Brambila faced life and death decisions and turned to cannabis for answers. They are the owners and founders of Grace Health and Well- ness, a cannabidiol (CBD) product manufacturer and cannabis biotechnology company based in Connecticut. Cannabis Patient Care featured part of their story earlier this year in their month- ly newsletter in an article titled "Medical Cannabis as an Ad- junct Therapy to Cancer Treatment: One Patient's Journey from Diagnosis to Remission" (1). In addition, DiMonda and Brambila recently announced plans in their pipeline for an approved can- nabis botanical drug—see sidebar "Continued Research." But there's more to tell about their journey, their discov- eries about the medical use of cannabis, and their hopes for others facing similar medical challenges as they both advo- cate for more help from mainstream medicine. A Cancer Survivor's Story DiMonda was diagnosed with stage IV breast cancer after her husband discovered a lump in her breast following an accident at home. That diagnosis led to a revealing pathway about how mainstream medicine works… or fails to work. Doctors repeatedly missed how bad her cancer was. "I was initially diagnosed with Stage I and II cancer at first," DiMon- da said. "Then we decided to go to New York because my initial diagnosis was in California in Orange County where we lived at the time. That's how we ended up actually going back to the East Coast. When I got to New York, the diagnosis was Stage IV." The advanced cancer had already damaged three of the vertebrae on her spine, requiring surgery. "The outlook wasn't very good because initially they said it would be six rounds of chemo," DiMonda said. "I was going to have extended radia- tion, a possible mastectomy, and it ended up that it was three rounds of chemo only." In a quick decision process, she and Brambila considered using cannabis for her treatment, in part because of what they learned about CBD from their customers. Customers were telling them about how good CBD was for various ailments. Brambila and DiMonda began a deeper dive into what medical cannabis could do, how it works and why, and began creating new CBD formulations. "A lot of making our own products really stems from my experience with the pa- tients with our delivery service," DiMonda says. "We made a de- cision that we were not going to focus on the recreational. We wanted to focus on the medicinal. We wanted to help people. And with my diagnosis, it became a huge goal of ours to make sure to allow people to understand that there are options." Brambila said that their CBD company was formed because they had a vision of responding to people's despair. "Seeing peo- ple suffering and trying to figure out something that would work for them—we knew that cannabis was really great for them." DiMonda is in remission right now, taking cannabis as part of a targeted therapy routine. "My protocols are still the same because of the type of cancer that I have, because it's met- astatic," she said. "I have to keep up with treatments, even the regular treatment that I have to use, which is every three weeks I go for a particular cocktail." Mainstream Medicine Turns Its Back on Cannabis What both Brambila and DiMonda witnessed as she went through treatment using cannabis was how mainstream medi- cine was resisting cannabis, even as doctors saw how it helped cancer patients like her. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) still has not approved cannabis as a treatment for cancer or any oth- er medical condition (2). The closest that the FDA is willing to go—and, by extension, what mainstream medicine is willing to explore—is to remind a patient that commercially available cannabinoids, such as dronabinol and nabilone (made with synthetic THC) are approved drugs for the treatment of can- cer-related side effects, and that cannabinoids may have ben- efits in the treatment of cancer-related side effects. But the science about cannabis is evolving, and evidence supporting medical cannabis is accumulating.

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