New research has shown that the non-hallucinogenic components of cannabis could act as effective anti-cancer agents.
The anti-cancer properties of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the primary hallucinogenic component of cannabis, has been recognised for many years.
However, research into similar cannabis-derived compounds, known as cannabinoids, has been limited.
It has been published in the journal Anti-cancer Research.
The team, led by Dr Wai Liu and colleagues carried out laboratory investigations using a number of cannabinoids, either alone or in combination with each other, to measure their anti-cancer actions in relation to leukaemia.
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.
Dr Liu said: “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.
“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.
“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.”
This latest research is part of a growing portfolio of studies into the medicinal properties of cannabis by the research team at St George’s.
The next step will be to examine in the laboratory these compounds in combination with existing anti-cancer treatments and study treatment schedules to identify strategies that will maximise their efficacy.
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.
Cannabis, also known as marijuana, is a plant from Central Asia, grown in many parts of the world today.
Cannabis is a controlled substance in the UK and is most commonly known as a recreational drug.
Cannabinoids are active chemicals in cannabis. They are also known more specifically as phytocannabinoids. There are 85 known cannabinoids in the cannabis plant. The main active cannabinoid in Cannabis is delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC).
The cannabis plant is known for its medicinal properties and has been used to relieve symptoms associated with cancer, HIV/AIDS, multiple sclerosis, anorexia, depression, and other illnesses and conditions.
As yet it is not a cure for these conditions but has been used as a support.
There is still much research to be done to end this debate over the medicinal powers of cannabis.
Read the full research paper in the journal Anti-cancer research: https://ar.iiarjournals.org/content/33/10/4373.abstract