Cannabinoids may fight cancer, not just treatment side effects

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Researchers have previously demonstrated that cannabinoids can help to relieve many side effects of anti-cancer therapies, including nausea, vomiting, pain, anxiety and loss of appetite. Experts are now exploring the potential for cannabinoids to directly treat cancer.

According to the National Institute of Cancer, one in every three individuals will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in life, and there will be a 60-percent increase in the number of deaths from cancer by the year 2030.

Phytocannabinoids, which occur naturally in the marijuana plant, are the most recognizable type of cannabinoid. Studies have shown that cannabinoids may stop cancer cells from dividing and invading normal tissue, and that they may also block the blood supply to tumors.

Additional research has suggested that cannabinoids may boost the body’s immune response against the growth and spread of tumors.

Dr. David Meiri works in the Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research at the Israeli Institute of Technology. His team has studied the impact of 50 varieties of cannabis on 200 different cancer cells.

“There is a large body of scientific data which indicates that cannabinoids specifically inhibit cancer cell growth and promote cancer cell death,” said Dr. Meiri.

Professor Burkhard Hinz of Rostock University Medical Center is a co-author of the current study.

“There is still a need for additional anti-cancer drugs. In this context accumulating data from preclinical models suggest that cannabinoids elicit anti-cancer effects on several levels of cancer progression,” said Professor Hinz.

“Clinical studies are now urgently needed to investigate the impact of cannabinoids on cancer growth and progression in patients.”

The study is published in the British Journal of Pharmacology.

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