Several cannabinoid compounds that could potentially treat colorectal cancer


A team of researchers at Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine in the US tested in the laboratory hundreds of cannabinoids on various types of human colorectal cancer cells.

Of these, 10 synthetic cannabinoids stopped cancer cell growth. Actually, the well-known cannabis compounds, the THC and the CBD had negligible ability to stop cancer cell growth.

This finding is the starting point of the development these 10 cannabinoids so they be more potent against colorectal cancer and from there to their development as drugs for treating cancer.

Colorectal cancer and cannabinoids

According to the World Cancer Research Fund, colorectal cancer is in the third most common cancer worldwide.

Cannabinoids” is a term that scientists use to refer to a large group of compounds that exert their effect on humans through cannabinoid receptors.

A receptor is a protein that sits on or inside cells in our body and can affect the cell behavior when a molecule that matches it completely, binds to it.

There are three main types of cannabinoids:

  • Phytocannabinoids are those that occur naturally in the cannabis or marijuana plant
  • Endocannabinoids are those that arise within the body
  • Synthetic cannabinoids are those that scientists create in the laboratory

The research on the medical uses of cannabinoids has focused mainly on the treatment of pain and anxiety and depression conditions. However, recently, scientists have shown growing interest in the anti-cancer potential of the cannabinoids.

Study focused on synthetic cannabinoids

The research team chose to investigate synthetic cannabinoids. The team identifies 10 molecules out of 370 that inhibited cell viability in 7 types of human colorectal cancer.

To screen the 370 candidates, at first stage, the team cultured the cancer cells for 8 hours and then “treated” them with one of the compounds for another 48 hours. If a certain compound showed signs of being able to reduce the viability in a specific type of colorectal cancer cell, the researchers then tested it on the six other types.

This way and after further tests and analyses, they reached 10 compounds. For the sake of comparison, they also ran tests on the two well-known THC and CBD. However, these showed a negligible effect to limit colorectal cancer cell viability.

The 10 compounds belong to three different classes of synthetic cannabinoid. The classes have many similarities, but they also have some small differences.

There is a need for further research to understand better how these compounds work, what is their exact mode of action and how to make them more potent and effective against colorectal cancer.


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