Is marijuana a potential cure for cancer?

 

By  | September 21, 2012, 4:39 AM PDT

 

An extraordinary discovery may someday give the controversial notion of “medical marijuana” a potent new meaning.

Turns out that the recreationally popular cannabis plant contains compounds that could stop and even reverse the growth of various aggressive forms of cancer. The finding, initially reported in 2007, may lead to the development of an effective treatment without toxic side effects.

Since the late 80’s, researchers have investigated the possibility that marijuana may possess anti-tumor properties. It began after a biologist in Madrid noticed that exposing brain cancer cells to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the chemical responsible for that sensation of being “high,” caused them to die. Follow-up studies conducted at Harvard University confirmed that injections of THC and other compounds known as “cannabinoids” lead to a positive outcome, both slowing down tumor growth by killing cancer cells while leaving healthy cells virtually unscathed.

Now a pair of scientists at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco are hoping to take what has been years of promising research a step further. Dr. Pierre Desprez in collaboration with his research partner Sean McAllister found that the compounds halted the spread of cancer cells by disabling ID-1, a gene shown to be a mechanism for the kind of rapid metastasis common in aggressive types of cancer such as lung and brain cancer. After a series of lab tests using a non-psychoactive chemical extract called Cannabidiol to treat malignant human breast cells in mice, the researchers hope to develop a pill that can demonstrate efficacy in human clinical trials.

It took us about 20 years of research to figure this out, but we are very excited,” Desprez, told the Huffington Post. “We want to get started with trials as soon as possible.”

The researchers hope to develop a safe drug that, at the very least, can be integrated into a patient’s treatment program and help to lessen the toxic effects of conventional therapies such as chemotherapy. Another advantage is that as a non-psychoactive chemical, CBD wont produce any mind-altering effects and, in case you’re wondering, it won’t leave the door open for those who want to inhale it.

“We used injections in the animal testing and are also testing pills,”  Desprez  said. “But you could never get enough Cannabidiol for it to be effective just from smoking.”

 

Marijuana And Cancer: Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis In Aggressive Cancers

 

A pair of scientists at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco has found that a compound derived from marijuana could stop metastasis in many kinds of aggressive cancer, potentially altering the fatality of the disease forever.

“It took us about 20 years of research to figure this out, but we are very excited,” said Pierre Desprez, one of the scientists behind the discovery, to The Huffington Post. “We want to get started with trials as soon as possible.”

The Daily Beast first reported on the finding, which has already undergone both laboratory and animal testing, and is awaiting permission for clinical trials in humans.

Desprez, a molecular biologist, spent decades studying ID-1, the gene that causes cancer to spread. Meanwhile, fellow researcher Sean McAllister was studying the effects of Cannabidiol, or CBD, a non-toxic, non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the cannabis plant. Finally, the pair collaborated, combining CBD and cells containing high levels of ID-1 in a petri dish.

“What we found was that his Cannabidiol could essentially ‘turn off’ the ID-1,” Desprez told HuffPost. The cells stopped spreading and returned to normal.

“We likely would not have found this on our own,” he added. “That’s why collaboration is so essential to scientific discovery.”

Desprez and McAllister first published a paper about the finding in 2007. Since then, their team has found that CBD works both in the lab and in animals. And now, they’ve found even more good news.

“We started by researching breast cancer,” said Desprez. “But now we’ve found that Cannabidiol works with many kinds of aggressive cancers–brain, prostate–any kind in which these high levels of ID-1 are present.”

Desprez hopes that clinical trials will begin immediately.

“We’ve found no toxicity in the animals we’ve tested, and Cannabidiol is already used in humans for a variety of other ailments,” he said. Indeed, the compound is used to relieve anxiety and nausea, and, since it is non-psychoactive, does not cause the “high” associated with THC.

While marijuana advocates will surely praise the discovery, Desprez explained that it’s not so easy as just lighting up.

“We used injections in the animal testing and are also testing pills,” he said. “But you could never get enough Cannabidiol for it to be effective just from smoking.”

Furthermore, the team has started synthesizing the compound in the lab instead of using the plant in an effort to make it more potent.

“It’s a common practice,” explained Desprez. “But hopefully it will also keep us clear of any obstacles while seeking approval.”

Marijuana And Cancer: Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis In Aggressive Cancers.