Cannabis plant extract ‘could stop aggressive cancers from spreading’

A compound found in cannabis could halt the  spread of many forms of aggressive cancer, scientists say.

Researchers found that the compound, called  cannabidiol, had the ability to ‘switch off’ the gene responsible for metastasis  in an aggressive form of breast cancer. Importantly, this substance does not  produce the psychoactive properties of the cannabis plant.

The team from the California Pacific Medical  Center, in San Francisco, first spotted its potential five years ago, after it  stopped the proliferation of human breast cancer cells in the lab.

Last year they published a study that found a  similar effect in mice. Now they say they are on the verge of publishing further  animal study results that expand these results further.

Speaking to the San Francisco  Chronicle, study  co-leader Dr Sean McAllister, said: ‘The preclinical trial data is very strong,  and there’s no toxicity. There’s really a lot or research to move ahead with and  to get people excited.’

While he, along with colleague Dr Pierre  Desprez acknowledge that they are some way off from turning their finding into a  pill, they are already developing human trial models. They hope to eventually  test the drug in combination with current chemotherapies.

Professor Desprez had previously found that a  protein called ID-1 seemed to play a role in causing breast cancer to spread.  Meanwhile Dr McAllister had discovered the cannabidiol had anti-cancer  potential.

Dr Desprez (left) and Dr Sean McAllister say their early trial results are very promisingDr Desprez (left) and Dr Sean McAllister say their early  trial results are very promising

The pair teamed up to see if they could treat  a particularly aggressive form of breast cancer called ‘triple negative.’ This  form, which affects 15 per cent of  patients, doesn’t have three hormone  receptors that the most successful therapies target. Cells from this cancer have  high levels of ID-1.

When they exposed cells from this cancer to  cannabidiol they were shocked to find the cells not only stopped acting ‘crazy’  but also returned to a healthy normal state.

They discovered that the compound had turned  off the overexpression of ID-1, stopping them from travelling to distant  tissues.

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