Cannabis Oil Pills Helped Child Go Into Cancer Remission, Mom Says
An Oregon mother credits cannabis oil pills with child’s cancer remission.
Nov. 27, 2012— — When 7-year-old Mykayla Comstock was diagnosed with leukemia in July, it was less than three days before her mother filed Oregon medical marijuana paperwork so the child could take lime-flavored capsules filled with cannabis oil.
The decision to give Mykayla the capsules came naturally to Erin Purchase, MyKayla’s mother, who believes marijuana has healing power, but doctors aren’t so sure it’s a good idea.
“The first doctor was not for it at all,” Purchase told ABCNews.com. “She was rude and she told us it was inappropriate. “Basically she blew up at us and told us to transfer to another facility.”
They found a new doctor, who knows that Mykayla takes about a gram of cannabis oil a day — half in the morning and half at night — but he doesn’t talk about it with them.
“This is our daughter,” Purchase, 25, said. “If they don’t agree with our personal choices, we’d rather they not say anything at all.”
It’s legal for a minor to enroll in the Oregon medical marijuana program as long as the child’s parent or legal guardian consents and takes responsibility as a caregiver.
And Mykayla is not alone.
There are currently four other patients enrolled in the Oregon medical marijuana program between the ages of 4 and 9, six between the ages of 10 and 14, and 41 between the ages of 15 and 17, according to the Oregon Public Health Division. Severe pain, nausea, muscle spasms and seizures are among the top conditions cited for medical marijuana use.
Mykayla first started to feel sick in May, when she developed a rash, cough and night sweats. By mid-July, doctors found a mass in her chest and diagnosed her with T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia a few days later. The family relocated from Pendleton, Ore. to Portland to be near Randall Children’s Hospital for treatment, which included chemotherapy.
At first, Mykayla wasn’t responding well to her treatment, and doctors said she might need a bone marrow transplant. Then she started taking the cannabis oil pills. her mother said. By early August, Mykayla was in remission and the transplant was no longer necessary.
“I don’t think it’s just a coincidence,” Purchase said. “I credit it with helping — at least helping — her ridding the cancer from her body.”
Before Mykayla was diagnosed, Purchase had read about another young boy with cancer who received cannabis oil for nearly two years because his parents believed it kept him alive so much that they defied doctors’ orders and broke Montana law to give it to him. She said she knew it was what she would do for her children if they ever got sick.
Cash “Cashy” Hyde died Nov. 14 at four years old, but his parents say he was never in any pain because of the oil.
Purchase said she, too, uses medical marijuana. She said it has helped with her kidney and liver disease since 2010, adding, “I feel that it saved my life”
However, Dr. Donna Seger, the executive director of the Tennessee Poison Center and a professor at Vanderbilt University, said cannabis has no effect on liver or kidney function, and it does not cure cancer.
“If it does anything, it decreases immunity,” she said. “It doesn’t fight cancer.”
Dr. Igor Grant, who directs the University of California Center for Medical Cannabis Research in San Diego, said he’s never studied marijuana’s effects on children and it’s not clear how the pills will affect Mykayla’s development if she takes the drugs daily for a period of months or years.
“It’s always a tricky issue prescribing really a medication of any kind to developing organisms because they may be more sensitive to the effects, specifically if the prescription drug has an effect on the brain,” Grant said.
He said there have been basic laboratory studies that suggest pot slows cancer cells’ ability to change, but those studies are only theoretical. They include no clinical data and or animal data.
The American Academy of Pediatrics opposes treating children with medical marijuana.
“The issue is that marijuana isn’t a medicine,” Dr. Sharon Levy, of the AAP, told the Oregonian.
Seger said she has several concerns about a 7-year-old taking pills filled with cannabis oil because there is little research on its long-term effects on children. Cannabis could have potentially negative effects on cognitive development in children since it affects cognitive ability in adults.
But Purchase said she wasn’t afraid to give her daughter the pills last summer. She was a little nervous about determining the right dose. She and her fiancé, Brandon Krenzler, who helped raise Mykayla since she was 3 years old, started MyKayla with .07-gram doses.
“It took a while to get her adjusted to it,” Purchase said. “She acted more funny when she first started taking it and after a while gained tolerance. Now, when she takes it, you can’t even tell. She’s very normal.”
Purchase said she knew she’d done the right thing the day Mykayla missed a dose of her cannabis oil pills and her 17-month old sister walked into a room holding string cheese. The smell made Mykayla so sick that she threw up on the spot.
“She actually asked for her dose,” Purchase said, adding that she’s less perky without it. “She doesn’t use pain pills or nausea pills. She has not even lost a single pound since her diagnosis.”
Dr. Michel Dubois, who works in NYU Langone’s Pain Management Center, said using cannabis is still controversial because of its side effects and addictive qualities.
“This is a new ethical problem because you’ve got a medication, which is known to have psychoactive affects, approved by the parents and given to a child,” he said, adding that the child doesn’t have much choice in the matter. (Psychoactive drugs disrupt communication in the brain and alter normal awareness, behavior and mood, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.)
Dubois said it would be better to give a child other drugs for nausea because the cannabis oil likely contains at least 50 or 60 different chemicals with unknown long-term health effects. If Mykayla’s life expectancy is limited, her risk of toxicity will also be limited. However, if she is expected to make a full recovery, Dubois said there is a worry that the cannabis will add health problems later on.
He said the cannabis shouldn’t be used for more than a month or two.
Although Mykayla’s doctors told Purchase she was in remission on Aug. 6 when her blood cell counts returned to normal, Mykayla will undergo two and a half or three more years of chemotherapy so that she can one day be officially cured, Purchase said. That could mean years of more medical marijuana.
Parents gave their 6-month-old son CBD oil while he was going through chemo. They say ‘a drop the size of a grain of rice’ stopped his vomiting almost instantly.
When Waldo Dwyer was six months old, his parents Danielle and Brian realized he had trouble seeing.
Soon after, they learned Waldo had a rare childhood form of the eye cancer retinoblastoma . He needed chemotherapy, which caused all sorts of unpleasant side effects, including vomiting, insomnia, and trouble eating.
” Everything we had been growing to know of Waldo [and his personality] was disappearing,” Brian told INSIDER.
Prescription anti-nausea and pain medications didn’t seem to help with the symptoms. The Dwyers were desperate to help their toddler. When Brian’s friends suggested he look into cannabis oil as an alternative treatment, the Dwyers regained a bit of hope.
After doing extensive research, they flew from their Philadelphia, Pennsylvania home to California, where they obtained the CBD oil that ultimately helped Waldo cope with his chemo side effects. Marijuana products (including CBD oil) were illegal in Pennsylvania at the time, but legal in California.
The Tribeca Film Festival documentary “Waldo on Weed,” which was executive produced by cannabis advocate and actress Whoopi Goldberg, premiered on May 3, and details the family’s journey.
The Dwyers saw near-instant results when they gave Waldo cannabis oil
When they gave their son his first dose of CBD oil — “a drop the size of a grain of rice” — Waldo stopped throwing up within an hour. The Dwyers were shocked.
” Before that he was crying on the floor and had lockjaw,” Brian said.
Before giving Waldo the CBD oil, Brian and Danielle spoke with with Dina Browner, a California-based marijuana consultant who owns a dispensary and offers cannabis advice to celebrities like Snoop Dogg. ” She gave us dosing instructions and connected us with other parents and helped us feel at ease,” Danielle said.
According to Danielle, Browner suggested starting Waldo off with a small dose of CBD oil. The oil they used contains the active ingredient cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive component in cannabis, plus negligible amounts of the psychoactive component THC — not enough to get Waldo high.
” We followed the doctor’s protocol for chemo and blood tests and used cannabis oil alongside of that in secret because it wasn’t legal at the time,” Danielle said.
In addition to hiding the decision from Waldo’s doctors, the Dwyers only told a select few family members and friends about their decision.
“We didn’t want this to get out, child protective services getting involved, and Waldo being taken away. It wasn’t until the bill was passed in Pennsylvania [for medical marijuana] we felt comfortable talking about it,” Brian said.
Some cannabis compounds are found in prescription drugs, but CBD isn’t one of them
While research on the medicinal use of various cannabis compounds is still in the early stages, a pair of prescription drugs containing THC are already on the market.
The synthetic cannabinoids dronabinol and nabilone are available as anti-nausea medications for people going through chemotherapy. The drugs are both synthetic versions of the psychoactive compound THC — they aren’t derived from cannabis plants.
There are no chemo-related prescription CBD drugs on the market, but a cancer pain relief medication called Nabiximols is being tested in clinical trials in the US. It’s a mouth spray that contains a near-equal ratio of THC and CBD, and it’s already available in Canada and some parts of Europe.
No protocol exists for giving kids CBD oil or other cannabis products
The lack of research on the substance and its largely illegal status makes it impossible for medical professionals to offer advice on giving cannabis to kids.
According to Dr. Paul Mitrani, clinical director at the Child Mind Institute, CBD products in particular range in quality, and sellers don’t always properly disclose exactly what’s in the products they’re selling. Other concerns include potential interactions with medications and the possibility of kids building a tolerance or dependence on CBD, according to the Child Mind Institute’s website.
Find the right dosage of CBD oil for kids is also difficult, since clinical doses used in studies may be different than what’s offered in cannabis shops, according to the Child Mind Institute.
Waldo is now healthy, and his story has had a lasting impact
Now five years old, Waldo is tumor-free. His vision, which was damaged during treatment, is being corrected. He wears glasses that his mom says make him look “super cute.”
The now-legal status of medical marijuana in Pennsylvania allowed the Dwyers to openly share their story and participate in the Waldo on Weed documentary. Over the past two years, Brian said he’s been inundated with social media messages from parents who are going through similar situations.
They’re desperate for ways to help their children manage pain and to get their hands on cannabis products that are oftentimes illegal in their home states, so the Dwyers offer as much advice as they can.
“This [film] is for all of the other Waldos who are searching for answers,” Brian said.