UK scientists suggest a cannabis compound could be used to reverse tumour growth.
Scientists from the University of East Anglia (UEA), UK have published research that suggests the main psychoactive ingredient found in cannabis could be used as a means of reducing tumour growth in cancer patients.
Today’s research is said to reveal the existence of previously unknown signalling platforms which are responsible for the drug’s success in shrinking tumours.
“THC, the major active component of marijuana, has anti-cancer properties
UEA pharmacist Peter McCormick
The UEA research team, alongside scientists from the Universidad Complutense de Madridin, Spain, used samples of human breast cancer to induce tumours in mice.
The tumours were then targeted with doses of the cannabis compound THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol).
According to the research, two cell receptors in particular were responsible for the drug’s anti-tumour effects.
Peter McCormick, from UEA’s school of Pharmacy, said: “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.
“However, it was unclear which of these receptors were responsible for the anti-tumour effects of THC.”
McCormick said that there has been a lot of interest from the pharmaceutical sector to develop synthetic equivalents that might have anti-cancer properties.
“There has been a great deal of interest in understanding the molecular mechanisms behind how marijuana, and specifically THC, influence cancer pathology,” McCormick said.
“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 tumour growth.”
Although the research is positive, McCormick has urged that cancer sufferers do not attempt to self-medicate.
“Our research uses an isolated chemical compound and using the correct concentration is vital. Cancer patients should not use cannabis to self-medicate, but I hope that our research will lead to a safe synthetic equivalent being available in the future,” he said.