Investigators from Spain, Italy and Canada now have evidence that cannabidiol (CBD) – a non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana – exerts a combination of anti-cancer effects at the molecular level.
Published last month in the open-access journal PLOS One, the results provide “new insights into the antitumor action of CBD, showing that this cannabinoid affects multiple tumoral features and molecular pathways,” write the authors, who conducted experiments using CBD and glioma cell cultures.
Led by Paola Massi, PhD from the University of Milan, the team concludes that CBD could offer an effective treatment for brain cancer – without side effects.
“As CBD is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid that appears to be devoid of side effects, our results support its exploitation as an effective anti-cancer drug in the management of gliomas.”
While marijuana’s cancer-fighting potential is not a new discovery, interest has grown in recent years. Earlier this month, the drug company GW Pharmaceuticals announced the start of the first clinical trials involving cannabis-based medicine as a cancer therapy.
Dr. Massi and her colleagues have also conducted a number of earlier pre-clinical studies on cannabinoids and cancer, with funding from GW Pharmaceuticals.
In their latest report, the researchers summarize what their work has shown so far about CBD’s effects, ranging from interfering with the blood supply of tumors (angiogenesis) to triggering tumor cell death (apoptosis).
“We previously demonstrated that the non-psychoactive cannabinoid compound cannabidiol (CBD) effectively limits human glioma cell growth, both in vitro and in vivo, by triggering apoptosis, oxidative stress, inhibition of the lipoxygenase (LOX) pathway and by modulating the endocannabinoid system. In addition, CBD interferes with angiogenesis associated to tumor growth.”
While the pre-clinical evidence is strong, it could be many years until clinical trials are completed. In the meantime, the team hopes to conduct further research on the molecular mechanisms influenced by CBD.
The study received funding from the University of Milan and GW Pharmaceuticals