New research showing cannabinoids hampering cancer progression begs the question ‘Can certain cannabinoids kill cancer cells?’
Gastrointestinal cancers encompass cancers of the esophagus, stomach (also known as gastric cancer), liver, pancreas, small intestines, colon, and rectum, explains the American College of Gastroenterology. Additionally, treatment generally consists of undergoing surgery, engaging in radiation or chemotherapy, or some combination of these. But this is prior to asking “Can certain cannabinoids kills cancer cells?”
One new study has found that certain cannabinoids may be beneficial for gastrointestinal cancer cells by creating an anti-tumor effect.
Cannabics Pharmaceuticals provided a press release in January of this year indicating that, after conducting numerous tests at its Israel-based facility, promising cancer-related results were found for two cannabinoids in particular: CBC and CBG.
What is CBC?
CBC stands for cannabichromene and is a cannabinoid that is created when cannabigerolic acid, or CBGA, has been exposed to heat or ultraviolet light.
CBGA is the same base for two of the better known cannabinoids, CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), and does not result in a psychoactive effect. This is because, instead of binding to CB1 receptors, it binds to other receptors known to dull pain by promoting the release of the body’s own endocannabionids, such as anandamine.
Several studies have linked anandamine with positive, anti-cancer cell effects. In 1998, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) published a study which noted that ananadine “selectively inhibits the proliferation of human breast cancer cells in vitro.”
Another piece of research, this one published in Cancer Metastasis Reviews in 2012, focused more directly on endocannabinoids’ impact upon the gastrointestinal tract and revealed that they tend to “inhibit colonic inflammation.”
CBG, on the other hand, is short for cannabigerol and, though it is less well-known than CBD and THC, researchers from Italy and Spain state that this cannabinoid is now “gaining interest among the scientific community.” It has been connected to a variety of gastrointestinal health benefits as well.
For example, one 2013 animal study found that “CBG attenuated murine colitis, reduced nitric oxide production in macrophages…and reduced ROS [reactive oxygen species] formation in intestinal epithelial cells,” making it potentially beneficial for patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
A 2014 study also concluded that CBG offers gastrointestinal benefits because it “hampers colon cancer progression in vivo and selectively inhibits the growth of CRC [colorectal cancer] cells,” and is a potential consideration for the prevention and cure of this specific type of cancer.
The link between CBC, CBG, and gastrointestinal cancer cells
Back to the recent study, Cannabics Pharmaceuticals looked at how human gastrointestinal cancer cells respond to CBC and CBG and found that these two cannabinoids were able to create “significantly higher rates of necrosis in these cancer cells” than some of the other cannabinoids that have been previously tested.
Cannabics Pharmaceuticals’ head of cannabidiol research, Dr. Yaakov Waksman, stated that CBC and CBG may provide more powerful benefits because they both have a Topological Polar Surface Area (TPSA) “which allows the cannabinoid molecule to penetrate a cancer cell’s membrane” whereas other cannabinoids’ TPSA values do not allow for this type of action.
Further, the company’s CTO and co-founder, Dr. Eyal Ballan, added that this finding provides hope as it may be able to “bring personalization into cannabinoid-based cancer treatments.”
Can cannabinoids kill cancer cells?
While this study, and several others involving cannabinoids and their effect on cancer cells, is promising, some health experts do indicate that there are still certain aspects of cannabinoids’ anti-cancer properties that we have yet to understand. Among them are:
- the endocannabinoid system’s role in the initiation of cancer formation;
- how cannabinoids impact the immune system as it relates to cancer specifically; and
- why, in some cases, cannabinoids actually stimulate cancer cell proliferation.
Because of this, more research needs to be conducted to discuss “Can cannabinoids kill cancer cells?” and ascertain how cannabinoids affect not only cancer cells, but the human body in general. Additionally, it’s important to learn which cannabinoids offer the greatest benefits for this class of diseases, what dosage amounts are needed to provide a therapeutic response, and how long is it safe to take this cannabis-based extract.
Once more is learned, it is likely that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will begin to approve more medicines with cannabinoids as it says that it “understands the need to develop therapies for patients with unmet medical needs, and does everything it can to facilitate this process.”
As part of this process, it is taking a closer look at research involving cannabinoids and other cannabis extracts to gain a better understanding of whether they are safe and effective for use, even offering “compassionate use” provisions in certain cases.