In 2009, researchers at Complutense University in Spain found that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)—the main psychoactive ingredient in cannabis—induced the death of brain cancer cells. This is known as “autophagy.” Previous studies have suggested that cannabinoids like THC have cancer-destroying properties. The study was a collaborative effort between by Complutense University and the University of Anglia (UEA) in the UK.
The study showed that autophagy followed the administration of THC to mice with human tumors. The growth of the tumors decreased. Two human patients who received intracranial administration of THC for the treatment of highly aggressive brain tumors also showed similar signs of autophagy, evincing previously unknown “signaling platforms” that allow THC to shrink tumors.
When tumors in mice and human breast cancer cells were targeted with doses of THC, researchers discovered that two cell receptors were associated with an anti-tumor response.
“THC, the major active component of marijuana, has anti-cancer properties. This compound is known to act through a specific family of cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors,” said Dr. Peter McCormick, UEA School of Pharmacy. “We show that these effects are mediated via the joint interaction of CB2 and GPR55 – two members of the cannabinoid receptor family. Our findings help explain some of the well-known but still poorly understood effects of THC at low and high doses on tumor growth,” he continued.
Dr. McCormick continued to describe the growing interest in his field around the molecular mechanisms in cannabis that influence cancer pathology. Accordingly, pharmaceutical companies looking forward to a new market have begun efforts to synthesize medical versions of a cannabinoid drug with anti-cancer properties.
“By identifying the receptors involved we have provided an important step towards the future development of therapeutics that can take advantage of the interactions we have discovered to reduce tumor growth,” said Dr. McCormick.
The Compassionate Care Act made New York the 23rd state to legalize the medical use of this drug. Cannabis dispensaries around the country have begun normalizing the acceptance of the plant as an acceptable and effective treatment source, particularly for low-income patients. Cannabis is now prescribed as palliative care for post-traumatic stress disorder and many other conditions. It seems that cancer treatment isn’t far behind. AgriMed is dedicated to synthesizing cannabis into a pharmaceutical wellness option for patients who suffer from these afflictions and much more.
Targeting CB2-GPR55 receptor heteromers modulates cancer cell signaling, Estefanía Moreno, et al., J Biol Chem, published online 18 June 2014.
Additional source: University of East Anglia news release accessed 14 July 2014.