Study shows there is potential that the CBD and THC in cannabis possibly slows, and even prevents, tumor metastasis.
As science continues to further study the effect of cannabinoids on cancer cells, researchers are finding that CBD and THC in cannabis potentially slows or prevents tumor metastasis. This is especially good news, since metastasis if the final stage of cancer, and it can often be fatal. Keep in mind, the following research is at a very early stage. More research will come on the subject soon.
The process of metastasis is a devastating one. Cancer cells escape the tumor and begin invading tissues and organs. These cells can then travel through the blood stream or lymph nodes to other areas of the body. And while doctors can in some cases treat metastasis, the survival rate is significantly lower than earlier stages of cancer.
When confronted with metastasis, doctors attempt to slow the growth of the tumor and prevent migration of cancer cells to the liver, lung or brain. However, some cancers metastasize more aggressively than others, making them more difficult to treat.
Cannabis May Slows Or Prevents Cancer Cell Metastasis
Studies are now showing the potential for cannabinoids such as CBD and THC to slow the growth of tumors. While it’s too early to definitively say “cannabis prevents metastasis”, there is a hope of this coming about eventually. In this study published in the Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology (2015), 1)McAllister, et al. “The Antitumor Activity of Plant-Derived Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids, Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.” DeepDyve, Springer US, 28 Apr. 2015, www.deepdyve.com/lp/springer-journals/the-antitumor-activity-of-plant-derived-non-psychoactive-cannabinoids-cmxY2L7Aev. researchers discovered that cannabinoids could block angiogenesis, which is the process by which new blood vessels form. This was made possible through the ability of cannabinoids to reduce expression of the ligand and its associated receptors in the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) pathway.
This pathway plays a major role in tumor growth, which is why the findings of this study are so promising for cancer research. By targeting this pathway, cannabinoids can inhibit angiogenesis and tumor growth. This in turn could help improve survival and response rates in cancer patients.
Inhibiting the VEGF pathway prevents tumors from growing new blood vessels, which are what feeds a tumor’s out-of-control growth. This study showed that CBD has the potential to treat different types of cancer, including prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancer. An even earlier study published in Oncology Reports (2006) 2)Bifulco, et al. “Endocannabinoids as Emerging Suppressors of Angiogenesis and Tumor Invasion (Review), Oncology Reports.” DeepDyve, Spandidos Publications, 1 Apr. 2007, www.deepdyve.com/lp/spandidos-publications/endocannabinoids-as-emerging-suppressors-of-angiogenesis-and-tumor-Q1vjg0toyS.
also found that THC and CBD could potentially be used to shut down the process by which cancer spreads throughout the body.
CBD May Slow Glioma Tumors
In this 2005 study published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, 3)Vaccani, et al. “Cannabidiol Inhibits Human Glioma Cell Migration through a Cannabinoid Receptor‐Independent Mechanism, British Journal of Pharmacology”. DeepDyve, Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company, 1 Apr. 2005, www.deepdyve.com/lp/wiley/cannabidiol-inhibits-human-glioma-cell-migration-through-a-cannabinoid-gR0oEi08du. scientists also discovered that CBD could potentially inhibit glioma cell migration. Glioma tumors typically grow and spread aggressively and quickly, making them difficult — or impossible — to remove surgically.
Researchers found that CBD could inhibit the production of metalloproteinases (MMPs). Through a process of breaking down components of the extracellular matrix, these proteins support the development of tumor blood vessels and aid the migration of cancer cells throughout the body. Essentially, these proteins create the opportunity for cancer cells to escape the tumor.
Once the cancer cells have escaped, they need a getaway vehicle. That’s where adhesive proteins like focal adhesion kinases (FAKs) come in. These promote metastasis by allowing cancer cells to easily migrate to other organs and areas of the body.
What About Cancer Cell Migration?
This study in Current Oncology (2016) 4)Velasco, G, et al. “Anticancer Mechanisms of Cannabinoids.” Current Oncology (Toronto, Ont.), Multimed Inc., Mar. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791144/. found that cannabinoids could inhibit FAKs in cancer cells in mice, thereby taking away their ability to migrate. Researchers also found that THC could potentially promote cell death through activating CB1 and CB2 receptors. But that’s not all they found. Scientists also discovered that THC can produce a shift of the cytokine profile and stimulate mobilization of myeloid-derived suppressor cells, thereby regulating anti-tumor immunity.
In addition, researchers have discovered that CBD has the ability to turn off the body’s Id-1 gene in breast cancer. This pro-metastatic gene is what makes this type of cancer so aggressive. By turning off this gene, CBD also promotes inhibition of other genes that also promote metastasis. Through slowing or preventing the spread and growth of breast cancer cells, this treatment could save a considerable number of lives.
The Future of Cannabinoid Cancer Treatment
Along with the potential ability of cannabinoids to slow cancer growth, scientists have been encouraged by the low toxicity of cannabis — particularly CBD. More than the toxicity profile looks promising, too. Researchers have found that it’s possible CBD could work alongside other medications and treatments without interfering.
Along with THC and CBD, researchers are also delving into the potential cancer-fighting abilities of terpenes and flavonoids. For instance, scientists have explored myrcene’s ability to also stimulate cancer-cell death and inhibit metastasis.
Granted, much of the existing cannabinoid-cancer research is conducted on lab mice or in vitro. But nevertheless, these results are incredibly promising, and pave the way for more research in the future. With additional studies and human trials, it’s possible that scientists could turn cannabis into a medicine that treats and prevents metastasis. And, if cannabis can indeed inhibit this final, fatal stage of cancer to progress, the potential for survival from aggressive cancers could be profound.
References [ + ]
|1.||↑||McAllister, et al. “The Antitumor Activity of Plant-Derived Non-Psychoactive Cannabinoids, Journal of Neuroimmune Pharmacology.” DeepDyve, Springer US, 28 Apr. 2015, www.deepdyve.com/lp/springer-journals/the-antitumor-activity-of-plant-derived-non-psychoactive-cannabinoids-cmxY2L7Aev.|
|2.||↑||Bifulco, et al. “Endocannabinoids as Emerging Suppressors of Angiogenesis and Tumor Invasion (Review), Oncology Reports.” DeepDyve, Spandidos Publications, 1 Apr. 2007, www.deepdyve.com/lp/spandidos-publications/endocannabinoids-as-emerging-suppressors-of-angiogenesis-and-tumor-Q1vjg0toyS.|
|3.||↑||Vaccani, et al. “Cannabidiol Inhibits Human Glioma Cell Migration through a Cannabinoid Receptor‐Independent Mechanism, British Journal of Pharmacology”. DeepDyve, Wiley Subscription Services, Inc., A Wiley Company, 1 Apr. 2005, www.deepdyve.com/lp/wiley/cannabidiol-inhibits-human-glioma-cell-migration-through-a-cannabinoid-gR0oEi08du.|
|4.||↑||Velasco, G, et al. “Anticancer Mechanisms of Cannabinoids.” Current Oncology (Toronto, Ont.), Multimed Inc., Mar. 2016, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791144/.|