Medical Marijuana May Inhibit Growth of Colon Cancer Cells, Finds Research

Cannabinoid compounds found in marijuana may stop the growth of cancer cells, according to researchers of Penn State College of Medicine.

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Medical Marijuana Inhibit Growth of Colon Cancer

Medical marijuana has gained a lot of attention in recent years for its ability to ease short-term anxiety and depression, and relieve pain. The researchers of Penn State College of Medicine say some medical marijuana contains cannabinoids that may actually stop the growth of colon cancer cells.

The researchers analyzed the effects of cannabinoid compounds on cancer cells in an experiment with test tubes. Although 10 other compounds, apart from cannabidiol, were found effective at stopping the growth of cancer, THC and CBD showed little to no effect.

The study was published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research.

The study helped in identifying the compounds that need further testing to understand their anti-cancer effects, explained Kent Vrana, chair of the Department of Pharmacology at Penn State College of Medicine.

Vrana said, “Now that we’ve identified the compounds that we think have this activity, we can take these compounds and start trying to alter them to make them more potent against cancer cells.” “And then eventually, we can explore the potential for using these compounds to develop drugs for treating cancer.”

According to the National Cancer Institute, colorectal cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in the U.S., with more than 140,000 newly diagnosed cases and over 50,000 deaths in 2018.

The National Institutes of Health has been supporting the study.

While medical marijuana has been used for palliative care, the researchers found that some studies have suggested that cannabinoid compounds may have the ability to stop or prevent the growth of cancer cells.

To understand the effects of marijuana on colon cancer cells, the researchers examined how 370 cannabinoid compounds affected several types of colon cancer cells.

Vrana said, “There are many different ways cells can become cancerous.” “Each of the seven cells we tested had a different cause or mutation that led to the cancer, even though they were all colon cells. We didn’t want to test these compounds on just one mutation or pathway to cancer.”

After a detailed screening and analysis, they identified 10 cannabinoid compounds that stopped the growth of all the types of colon cancer cells. Although the researchers were able to elicit these compounds, Vrana said it is still unclear how exactly those compounds worked to stop the tumor growth.

Vrana further added, “The 10 compounds we found to be effective fall into three classes, so they’re similar to each other but with small changes.” “We know how one of them works, which is by inhibiting the division of cells in general. We also found that the most potent and effective compounds don’t seem to work through traditional marijuana receptors, although we’re not sure of the exact mechanism yet.”

He explained certain types of cells, such as skin and colon cells, are more vulnerable to cancers, as they divide very frequently. He stated, “Every time a cell divides, there’s the chance that it will mutate and keep dividing when it shouldn’t, which is how cancers can start. So if we block that signal that’s telling cancer cells to continue to divide, that could be a way to stop that cancer.” “We have a sense for what works there. We suspect it will work for other things. We’re actually trying it for neuroblastoma right now,” said Vrana.