Scientists in California believe they may have discovered a compound in marijuana that can reduce the aggressiveness of some forms of cancer.
The San Francisco Gate reports on the data that has been years in the making. While marijuana has been shown to help reduce nausea and pain in cancer patients, scientists believe that a compound in marijuana has the ability to "turn off" the activity of a gene responsible for metastasis in breast and other types of cancers.
The research team is working out of San Francisco's California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute and have been working for years on the study. The compound they’re focused on, called cannabidiol, does not produce the psychotropic high associated with marijuana.
Last year, the team published a small study showing the positive effects of cannabidiol on mice. New data is about to be released that expands upon the previous results that the researchers hope will help propel the study even further.
"The preclinical trial data is very strong, and there's no toxicity. There's really a lot of research to move ahead with and to get people excited," said Sean McAllister, who is working alongside scientist Pierre Desprez in the study.
Desprez and McAllister believe that their merging of separate areas of study was serendipitous.
Desprez had been studying the protein ID-1, which he found to play an important role in how cancer could spread. McAllister, on the other hand, was focused on studying anabolic steroids in drug abuse. He soon became focused on with the role non-psychotropic cannabidiol, or CBD, interacts with cancer.
McAllister, after hearing an internal seminar from Desprez on his studies of ID-1, came up with the question “How effective would cannabidiol be on targeting metastatic cancer cells?”
The two then teamed up, with Desprez armed with ID-1 cancer-causing protein, and McAllister with CBD, his cancer-fighting compound.
For their experimentation, the doctors exposed ID-1 to CBD in a petri dish. In a shocking result, the ID-1, the cancer-causing protein, reverted to a normal state and stopped acting “crazy.”
"We thought we did the experiment the wrong way," McAllister said of the overwhelming results.
However, their results proved to be consisted.
"I told Sean, 'Maybe your drug is working through my gene,' " Desprez said.
What the researchers have discovered thus far in their research is that CBD turns off the overexpression of ID-1, which prevents it from traveling to foreign tissues. Thus, the metastasization - cancer’s fatal ability - is blocked.
In the wake of their positive results, the doctors were forced to emphasize that the CBD will only work in the presence of high levels of ID-1 and these do not include all cancerous tumors but, rather, aggressive, metastatic cells. High levels have been found in leukemia, colorectal, pancreatic, lung, ovarian, brain and other cancers.
Further, it was emphasized that the smoking of marijuana is not connected to preventing or fighting cancer in the wake of these studies. CBD has been bred out of much of marijuana in favor of higher levels of THC, which drives the high provided from smoking.
Despite strong results so far, the doctors know they still have a long road ahead of them by way of human clinical trials, but are hopeful following a long string of positive results so far.