A marijuana plant
IN PHOTO: A woman holds up a cannabis plant during a demonstration in support of the legalization of marijuana in Buenos Aires, December 4, 2014. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

The National Institute of Drug Abuse, or NIDA, a US government-funded research team, has officially acknowledged marijuana’s capacity to kill various cancer cells.

“Recent animal studies have shown that marijuana can kill certain cancer cells and reduce the size of others. Evidence from one animal study suggests that extracts from whole-plant marijuana can shrink one of the most serious types of brain tumors. Research in mice showed that these extracts, when used with radiation, increased the cancer-killing effects of the radiation,” wrote NIDA on its Web site.

The admission started from a page revision on its official Web site titled “DrugFacts: Is Marijuana Medicine?” alluding to a cannabinoids-focused research conducted by a team of scientists at St George University in London.

The study, led by Dr Wai Liu, found that cannabinoids, the six non-hallucinogenic chemicals found in marijuana, have anti-cancer properties that could battle specific types of tumours. It also established that the two most common cannabinoid — cannabidiol (CBD) and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — can weaken and turn cancer cells into radiation-susceptible cells.

Scientists at NIDA also said that they are currently conducting clinical trials and preclinical studies on the effects of marijuana on various illnesses, including mental disorders, substance use-related disorders, pain, seizures, inflammation and autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer's disease, HIV and AIDS.

The admission of the government-backed group came after the announcement of the Department of Justice that it will continue to prosecute medical marijuana cases.

However, several officials spoke against it, stating that the justice system is defying Congress and breaking existing laws on medical marijuana.

“The statement comes as the agency continues to target people who are complying with their state medical marijuana law. This insubordination is occurring despite the fact that members of Congress in both parties were clear that their intent with the amendment was to protect medical marijuana patients and providers from federal prosecution and forfeiture,” Bill Pipper, Drug Policy Alliance director of National Affairs, wrote at Huffington Post, rebuking the justice department’s statement.

On the other hand, a CNN report confirmed that President Barack Obama remains a supporter of medical marijuana and an advocate for alternative drug abuse treatments in lieu of incarceration. The president once said in an interview that there would be more states that will emulate the lead of Colorado and Washington on recreational marijuana. Today, marijuana remains illegal under the federal law.

The recent admission will not only boost medical marijuana supporters’ morale but also highlight the importance of alternative medicine sector’s effort on battling cancer. A large part of this sector comprises the emerging biotech firms focused on finding a definitive treatment for various cancer cells.

One of these is Nascent Biotech, Inc. (OTC: NBIO), a California-based firm developing human antibodies and cytokine responses for brain cancer treatment. Like most small biotech firms in the country, the company also aims to make cancer treatment more effective, less painful and affordable.

According to the experts, the biotech companies will lead the growth of the oncology market, which is now approaching the $100-billion mark.

To contact the writer, email: v.hernandez@ibtimes.com.au