New research from the University of London suggests chemicals in marijuana could be used to fight leukemia.
Published online in Anticancer Research, researchers at the Department of Oncology at St. George’s, University of London studied six different cannabinoids and found each to have anti-cancer action on leukemia cells.
Lead author Wai Liu, Ph.D explained the results of the latest study in Monday’s press release.
“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.”
The scientists were able to replicate previous findings on the anti-cancer effects of THC – the compound in marijuana responsible for the high.
However, in the latest study, Dr. Liu’s team decided to focus on cannabinoids that lacked psychoactive activity, including cannabidiol (CBD), cannabigerol (CBG) and cannabigevarin (CBGV).
“This study is a critical step in unpicking the mysteries of cannabis as a source of medicine. The cannabinoids examined have minimal, if any, hallucinogenic side effects, and their properties as anti-cancer agents are promising.”
The non-psychoactive cannabinoids were shown to inhibit growth of leukemia cells at all stages of the cell cycle. Interestingly, the team observed even greater effects when different cannabinoids were administered together.
Dr. Liu says drugs derived from cannabis are much cheaper to produce than traditional cancer therapies. He also thinks they could be combined with existing treatments to enhance their effects.
“Used in combination with existing treatment, we could discover some highly effective strategies for tackling cancer. 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.”
Dr. Liu’s next study will investigate the potential of cannabinoids when combined with existing treatments as well as different treatment schedules that could maximize their anti-cancer activity.
The study was published ahead of print and received funding from GW Pharmaceuticals