Marijuana May Fight Lung Tumors
Cannabis Compound Slows Cancer Spread in Mice, Researchers Say
WebMD News Archive
April 17, 2007 (Los Angeles) -- Cannabis may be bad for the lungs, but the
active ingredient in marijuana may help combat lung cancer, new research
In lab and mouse studies, the compound, known as THC, cut lung tumor growth
in half and helped prevent the cancer from spreading, says Anju Preet, PhD, a
Harvard University researcher in Boston who tested the chemical.
While a lot more work needs to be done, “the results suggest THC has
therapeutic potential,” she tells WebMD.
Moreover, other early research suggests the cannabis compound could help
fight brain, prostate, and skin cancers as well, Preet says.
The findings were presented at the annual meeting of the American
Association for Cancer Research.
The finding builds on the recent discovery of the body’s own cannabinoid
system, Preet says. Known as endocannabinoids, the natural cannabinoids
stimulate appetite and control pain and inflammation.
THC seeks out, attaches to, and activates two specific endocannabinoids that
are present in high amounts on lung cancer cells, Preet says. This revs up
their natural anti-inflammatory properties. Inflammation can promote the growth
and spread of cancer.
In the new study, the researchers first demonstrated that THC inhibited the
growth and spread of cells from two different lung cancer cell lines and from
patient lung tumors. Then, they injected THC into mice that had been implanted
with human lung cancer cells. After three weeks, tumors shrank by about 50%,
compared with tumors in untreated mice.
Preet notes that animals injected with THC seem to get “high,” showing signs
of clumsiness and getting the munchies. “You would expect to see the same thing
in humans, so if this work does pan out, getting the dose right is going to be
all important,” she says.
Paul B. Fisher, PhD, a professor of clinical pathology at Columbia
University, says that though the work is “interesting,” it’s still very
“The issue with using a drug of this type becomes the window of
concentration that will be effective. Can you physiologically achieve what you
want without causing unwanted effects?” he tells WebMD.