A chemical found in the plant Cannabis sativa may help to prevent the spread of breast cancer cells throughout the body, a new study has found.
The chemical, cannabidiol (CBD), may be a ‘building block’ out of which to make new drugs.
The study was conducted by a team at the California Pacific Medical Centre Research Institute and is published in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.
It revealed that CBD inhibits a gene called Id-1, which has been linked to the spread of cancer cells and has been found in high levels in a number of types of cancer.
Lead author Dr Sean McAllister said that options for treating aggressive forms of cancer are limited.
“Those treatments, such as chemotherapy, can be effective but they can also be extremely toxic and difficult for patients,” he revealed.
“This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects.”
Senior author Dr Pierre-Yves Desprez added: “What is exciting about this study is that if CBD can inhibit Id-1 in breast cancer cells, then it may also prove effective at stopping the spread of cancer cells in other forms of the disease, such as colon and brain or prostate cancer.”
The researchers noted that CBD does not have psychoactive properties and that smoking cannabis would be unlikely to provide effective concentrations of CBD.
Dr Joanna Owens, science information officer at Cancer Research UK, commented: “This research was carried out on breast cancer cells in the lab and is at a very early stage.
“The findings will need to be followed up with clinical trials in humans to see if CBD is safe, and whether the beneficial effects can be replicated.”
Dr Owens continued: “Several cancer drugs based on plant chemicals are already used widely, such as vincristine – which is derived from a type of flower called Madagascar Periwinkle and is used to treat breast and lung cancer.
“It will be interesting to see whether CBD will join them.”