Study shows cannabinoids may have anti-tumor properties

In integrative healthcare, cannabinoids have long been touted for their healing properties, from managing pain to easing symptoms of chronic disease. However, new research published last week in the British Journal of Pharmacology shows it may have a more direct role to play in the treatment of cancer.

Phytocannabinoids are the most notable type of cannabinoid, and they occur naturally in the cannabis plant. Studies have shown that cannabinoids may stop cancer cells from dividing and invading normal tissue, and they may block the blood supply to tumors. Some studies also indicate that cannabinoids may enhance the body's immune response against the growth and spread of tumors.

There is still a need for additional anti-cancer drugs, said Burkhard Hinz, PhD, the study’s lead author and faculty at the University of Rostock’s School of Medicine in Germany.

“In this context accumulating data from preclinical models suggest that cannabinoids elicit anti-cancer effects on several levels of cancer progression," he said. "Clinical studies are now urgently needed to investigate the impact of cannabinoids on cancer growth and progression in patients."

The endocannabinoid system has emerged as a considerable target for the treatment of diverse diseases. In addition to the wellestablished palliative effects of cannabinoids in cancer therapy, phytocannabinoids, synthetic cannabinoid compounds, as well as inhibitors of endocannabinoid degradation, have attracted attention as possible systemic anticancer drugs.

Although the clinical use of cannabinoid receptor ligands is limited by their psychoactivity, nonpsychoactive compounds, such as cannabidiol, have gained attention due to preclinically established anticancer properties and a favorable risktobenefit profile. Thus, cannabinoids may complement the currently used collection of chemotherapeutics, as a broadly diversified option for cancer treatment, while counteracting some of their severe side effects.

The full study can be found here.