Diagnosed with cancer at the age of seven, Mykayla Comstock was declared in remission of T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia three years ago yesterday. Although her family credits cannabis for saving Mykayla’s life and cannabis has been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory, the FDA still refuses to approve cannabis as a cancer treatment.
Three years ago, Mykayla began showing symptoms, including a hacking cough, body aches, fever, night sweats, and a rash across her legs. Suspecting Mykayla had strep throat, her doctor placed her on antibiotics, but her health continued to deteriorate. A second doctor found a large mass in her chest pressing against her internal organs. After enduring spinal taps and bone marrow biopsies, she was diagnosed with aggressive T-cell acute lymphoblastic leukemia.
To treat the symptoms of her daughter’s chemotherapy, such as nausea, loss of appetite, and restlessness, Mykayla’s mother, Erin Purchase, started giving her a gram of cannabis oil each day. Mykayla usually ingests the cannabis either in a pill form or a brownie baked with marijuana-laced butter.
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Under Oregon law, pediatric cancer patients are allowed to treat the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of chemotherapy with medical marijuana if the children have parental consent and a doctor’s approval. Although her father, Jesse Comstock, is concerned about the long-term effects of cannabis on his daughter, Mykayla’s mother credits the plant for helping to save her daughter’s life.
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According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cannabis has been studied in the clinic and found that it may have benefits in treating the symptoms of cancer and the side effects of cancer therapies. Cannabis has also been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory. Although the FDA has approved two cannabinoids (dronabinol and nabilone) for the prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-related nausea and vomiting, the FDA still has not approved cannabis as a cancer treatment.
While supporting the need for more scientific research on cannabinoids, the American Cancer Society recognizes the necessity “for better and more effective therapies that can overcome the often debilitating side effects of cancer and its treatment. The Society also believes that the classification of marijuana as a Schedule I controlled substance by the US Drug Enforcement Administration imposes numerous conditions on researchers and deters scientific study of cannabinoids. Federal officials should examine options consistent with federal law for enabling more scientific study on marijuana.”
Whether or not cannabis was directly responsible for Mykayla’s remission, the treatment does ease the physical and psychological pain caused by her chemotherapy. Although more studies are required before the FDA considers approving cannabis as a cancer treatment, at least in Oregon a brave young girl is celebrating three years of remission.