Marijuana compound may stop deadly cancer metastasis

Marijuana. CBC photoWe've known about medical applications of cannabis (or marijuana) for years, but the research findings of two scientists studying it have the potential to change the deadliness of cancer forever. A cannabis compound known as cannabidiol can stop metastasis in many types of aggressive cancers, found the researchers from California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-toxic, non-psychoactive chemical found in the cannabis plant, that had already been effective in relieving convulsion, inflammation, anxiety and nausea, and in treating schizophrenia and dystonia. For the 2007 study, Sean McAllister, who was specifically studying the effects of cannabidiol, collaborated with Pierre Desprez, who for the last 10 years has been studying the ID-1 gene in cancer that causes metastasis.

Metastasis is when a cancer spreads from the primary tumor area to other parts of the body, typically using the bloodstream or lymphatic system, and is one of the hallmarks of a tumor becoming malignant.

"What we found was that his Cannabidiol could essentially 'turn off' the ID-1," Desprez told The Huffington Post. "We likely would not have found this on our own," he added.

"That's why collaboration is so essential to scientific discovery."

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Since publishing their study, the two went on to study the effect of CBD on other cancers.

"Now we've found that Cannabidiol works with many kinds of aggressive cancers — brain, prostate — any kind in which these high levels of ID-1 are present." said Desprez.

Since CBD has already been safely used by people for other ailments, the two hope that clinical trials can begin soon. However, treating cancer metastasis in this way requires more than just lighting up.

"We used injections in the animal testing and are also testing pills," he said. "But you could never get enough cannabidiol for it to be effective just from smoking."

The two are now working on synthesizing the cannabidiol in the lab, rather than using samples from the plant, which should not only make it more potent, but also hopefully clear any obstacles at getting the drug approved.

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