Cannabinoid Compounds May Inhibit Colon Cancer Growth

The study through Penn State College of Medicine adds to existing research on the benefits of medical cannabis in cancer cases.

Certain cannabinoid (CBD) compounds may inhibit the growth of colon cancer cells, according to researchers at Penn State College of Medicine.

Their study, published in Cannabis and Cannabinoid Research, tested the effects of 370 synthetic cannabinoid compounds on 7 types of human colon cancer cells. Researchers incubated the cells in the lab for 8 hours before introducing the cannabinoid compounds for an additional 48 hours.

Compounds such as THC and CBD showed little to no effect when tested, yet researchers found 10 other compounds that were successful at reducing cell viability in almost all of the 7 tested types of colon cancer. Although the compounds have been identified to hinder cancer cell divide, researchers are still unsure of how they do it.

Kent Vrana, PhD, co-author of the study, explained that since the study helped to identify these potentially anti-cancer compounds, further research could alter them to make the compounds even more potent against cancer cells. He continued, "and then eventually, we can explore the potential for using these compounds to develop drugs for treating cancer."

According to the National Cancer Institute, there were an estimated 140,250 newly diagnosed colorectal cancer cases and 50,630 deaths in 2018. Medical cannabis has been used in recent years as an immediate form of care, and prior studies suggest that it has cancer—growth inhibiting properties. This new research pinpointed which compounds are more likely to inhibit cancer cell growth in more rapidly dividing areas, such as colon cells.

Vrana continued, "every time a cell divides, there's the chance that it will mutate and keep dividing when it shouldn't, which is how cancers can start. So, if we block that signal that's telling cancer cells to continue to divide, that could be a way to stop that cancer."