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Cannabinoids induce death in brain cancer cells. (Harvard 2009)


“THC, the main active component of marijuana, exerts a wide variety of biological effects by mimicking endogenous substances — the endocannabinoids — that bind to and activate specific cannabinoid receptors. Induction of autophagy by cannabinoids relies on CB1 receptor activation.
“Autophagy,” is a cellular process in which cytoplasmic materials — including organelles — are sequestered and delivered to lysosomes for degradation or recycling. [It] is required for the activation of apoptosis in response to cannabinoid treatment.
Activation of the autophagy-mediated cell death pathway is indispensable for cannabinoid antitumoral action… cannabinoid-evoked cell death is a crucial event in the triggering of autophagy. THC activates the autophagic cell death pathway (and) induces autophagy of cannabinoid-treated cells.
We demonstrate that THC administration leads to inhibition, induction of autophagy, and reduction of tumor growth. Autophagy was [not] evident in normal, non-transformed primary astrocytes which are resistant to cannabinoid-induced cell death.
These findings describe a mechanism by which THC can promote the autophagic death of human cancer cells and provide evidence that cannabinoid administration may be an effective therapeutic strategy for targeting human cancers.”

“Considering that no signs of toxicity were observed in the clinical trial patients or in tumor-bearing animals treated intracranially, peritumorally, or intraperitoneally with THC, and that no overt toxic effects have been reported in other clinical trials of cannabinoid use in cancer patients for various applications (e.g., inhibition of nausea, vomiting, and pain) and using different routes of administration (e.g., oral, oro-mucosal), our findings support that safe, therapeutically efficacious doses of THC may be reached in cancer patients. ”

Cancer Genetics Program, Beth Israel Deaconess Cancer Center and Department of Medicine, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical

The Journal of Clinical Investigation, http://www.jci.org Volume 119 Number 5 May 2009


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