The non-hallucinogenic parts of cannabis seem to be potentially highly effective anti-cancer drugs, according to a new study.
“This study is a critical step in unpicking the mysteries of cannabis as a source of medicine," explains Dr Wai Liu. "The cannabinoids examined have minimal, if any, hallucinogenic side effects, and their properties as anti-cancer agents are promising.
“These agents are able to interfere with the development of cancerous cells, stopping them in their tracks and preventing them from growing. In some cases, by using specific dosage patterns, they can destroy cancer cells on their own."
Researchers have long studied the effects of the main active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This acts against cancer, but has the disadvantage (or advantage, as far as recreational users are concerned) of being a powerful hallucinogen. However there hasn't been much investigation into the properties of other compounds found in cannabis, in large part due to the fact that it has been illegal or closely controlled in many jurisdictions.
But now Liu and colleagues at St George's Hospital Medical School (part of London uni) have tested a range of different, non-hallucinogenic cannabis-derived compounds against the blood cancer leukaemia - with encouraging results.
We are told, in a St George's statement:
Of six cannabinoids studied, each demonstrated anti-cancer properties as effective as those seen in THC. Importantly, they had an increased effect on cancer cells when combined with each other ...
The study examined two forms of cannabidiol (CBD), two forms of cannabigerol (CBG) and two forms of cannabigevarin (CBGV). These represent the most common cannabinoids found in the cannabis plant apart from THC.
“Used in combination with existing treatment, we could discover some highly effective strategies for tackling cancer," enthuses Liu. "Significantly, these compounds are inexpensive to produce and making better use of their unique properties could result in much more cost effective anti-cancer drugs in future.”
The full research can be read here in the journal Anticancer Research. ®