Researchers Inhibit the Growth of Colorectal Cancer with Cannabinoid Compounds
There has been an increasing awareness about the medical uses of cannabinoids in recent years. Scientists have now found in a new study that some of these compounds may potentially help to halt the growth of colon cancer cells in humans, reports MedicalXpress.
Two compounds, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the plant’s main psychoactive constituent, and cannabidiol (CBD), are the ones we are talking about.
In the recent study published in the Journal Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, scientists tested 370 synthetic cannabinoid compounds on seven types of colon cancer cells found in humans. They observed that, while both THC and CBD had a negligible effect on these cells, 10 other cannabinoid compounds appeared to halt their growth.
The study was carried out by Penn State College of Medicine researchers headed by Professor Kent Vrana, chair of the institution’s Department of Pharmacology.
“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,” said Vrana. “And then eventually, we can explore the potential for using these compounds to develop drugs for treating cancer.”
A prevalent problem
The latest findings would likely be cheering to people who have colon cancer or know someone who does. The National Cancer Institute classifies it among the most common cancers in the United States. It is also the third most common cancer across the globe, according to the World Cancer Research Fund.
It is estimated that 140,250 new cases of colorectal cancer were reported in America in 2018, accounting for more than 8 percent of all new cancer cases. An estimated 50,630 people died as a result of this disorder in 2018.
The overall incidence and death resulting from colon cancer have been on the decline in America for some years now due to improved awareness and early intervention. But this hasn’t been the case among those who are 50 years or younger. Colon cancer cases and deaths have risen among younger people, probably due to unhealthy lifestyle choices.
Fighting back with cannabinoid compounds
Researchers have found that cannabinoids offer great potential for a variety of medical issues, including pain and depression. The compounds bind to the cannabinoid receptor in or on the cells, thereby altering cell behavior.
There are different types of cannabinoids, namely: phytocannabinoids (from a plant), endocannabinoids (naturally occurring within the body), and synthetic cannabinoids (created in labs).
Researchers investigated the potential of these compounds for discouraging cancer in the current study using synthetic variants. After testing 370 different types, they found that 10 may help for this purpose. This was after testing them on seven cells with different specific causes of mutation that can make them become cancerous.
Prior to treating the cells with cannabinoids, the scientists incubated the cells for eight hours. They then treated the cells with the compounds for 48 hours.
The researchers tested any cannabinoid that produced an effect on colon cancer on all the other six cells. By doing this, they were able to find that 10 of the compounds have the potential for reducing the viability of virtually all of the seven cancer cells tested.
The study authors do not yet know the exact mechanisms by which the cannabinoid compounds were able to produce the observed effects. But they did observe that one of them works by inhibiting cell division.
Future research will focus on a better understanding of how the compounds affect cancer cells. They are also planning to explore ways on how to make the synthetic cannabinoids more efficacious.
- Cannabinoid compounds may inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells
- Cannabis and Cannabinoids (PDQ®)–Health Professional Version