Cannabis could slow tumour growth

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Scientists based at the University of East Anglia (UEA) have revealed how cannabis may be used in treatment to prevent cancer growth. They have discovered an ingredient present in marijuana which may have anti-cancer properties.

There have been issued reports that the psychoactive ingredient in cannabis, Tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, has shown to be successful in overcoming cancerous cell growth. However, Cancer Research UK has stated that more research is required before it will become clear whether this substance is really effective in treating the disease.

Scientists used laboratory mice bearing human cancer cells to test THC. After injecting the mice with THC, they were able to identify two receptors which are responsible for the disease-fighting effects in the compound.

This new study could boost attempts to create a synthetic cannabis substitute which can aid in the fight against cancer in a safe and targeted manner.

Dr Peter McCormick, based at UEA’s school of pharmacy, said that their findings have aided in explaining some of the poorly understood, but well-known, effects that THC has on tumour growth, at high and low doses.

He said that there has been a huge amount of interest shown in trying to understand the molecular mechanisms of how marijuana, but particularly THC, influences the pathology of cancer. He added that the identification of the receptors which are involved have offered a huge step toward developing therapies which will take advantage of the interactions that have been discovered.

Dr McCormick has placed emphasis on the fact that these studies should not prompt cancer patients to try and self-medicate.

He stated that the research which was undertaken made use of a specific chemical compound and it is vital that the concentration is accurate. He said that he hopes that the research will result in a safe synthetic treatment becoming available in the future.

Image Credit: Manuel M. V.

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