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Laboratory / Animal / Preclinical Studies

Cannabinoids are a group of 21-carbon–containing terpenophenolic compounds produced uniquely by Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indica species.[1,2] These plant-derived compounds may be referred to as phytocannabinoids. Although delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) is the primary psychoactive ingredient, other known compounds with biologic activity are cannabinol, cannabidiol (CBD), cannabichromene, cannabigerol, tetrahydrocannabivarin, and delta-8-THC. CBD, in particular, is thought to have significant analgesic and anti-inflammatory activity without the psychoactive effect (high) of delta-9-THC.

Antitumor Effects

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General Information About Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors

Epidemiology The age-adjusted incidence of carcinoid tumors worldwide is approximately 2 per 100,000 persons.[1,2] The average age at diagnosis is 61.4 years.[3] Carcinoid tumors represent about 0.5% of all newly diagnosed malignancies.[2,3] Anatomy Carcinoid tumors are rare, slow-growing tumors that originate in cells of the diffuse neuroendocrine system. They occur most frequently in tissues derived from the embryonic gut. Foregut tumors, which account for up to 25% of cases, arise...

Read the General Information About Gastrointestinal Carcinoid Tumors article > >

One study in mice and rats suggested that cannabinoids may have a protective effect against the development of certain types of tumors.[3] During this 2-year study, groups of mice and rats were given various doses of THC by gavage. A dose-related decrease in the incidence of hepatic adenoma tumors and hepatocellular carcinoma was observed in the mice. Decreased incidences of benign tumors (polyps and adenomas) in other organs (mammary gland, uterus, pituitary, testis, and pancreas) were also noted in the rats. In another study, delta-9-THC, delta-8-THC, and cannabinol were found to inhibit the growth of Lewis lung adenocarcinoma cells in vitro and in vivo.[4] In addition, other tumors have been shown to be sensitive to cannabinoid-induced growth inhibition.[5,6,7,8]

Cannabinoids may cause antitumor effects by various mechanisms, including induction of cell death, inhibition of cell growth, and inhibition of tumor angiogenesis invasion and metastasis.[9,10,11,12] One review summarizes the molecular mechanisms of action of cannabinoids as antitumor agents.[13] Cannabinoids appear to kill tumor cells but do not affect their nontransformed counterparts and may even protect them from cell death. These compounds have been shown to induce apoptosis in glioma cells in culture and induce regression of glioma tumors in mice and rats. Cannabinoids protect normal glial cells of astroglial and oligodendroglial lineages from apoptosis mediated by the CB1 receptor.[14]

The effects of delta-9-THC and a synthetic agonist of the CB2 receptor were investigated in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC).[15] Both agents reduced the viability of hepatocellular carcinoma cells in vitro and demonstrated antitumor effects in hepatocellular carcinoma subcutaneous xenografts in nude mice. The investigations documented that the anti-HCC effects are mediated by way of the CB2 receptor. Similar to findings in glioma cells, the cannabinoids were shown to trigger cell death through stimulation of an endoplasmic reticulum stress pathway that activates autophagy and promotes apoptosis. Other investigations have confirmed that CB1 and CB2 receptors may be potential targets in non-small cell lung carcinoma [16] and breast cancer.[17]

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