Can Cannabis Inhibit Breast Cancer Progress?

Documentaries, research reports and books come to light more frequently regarding this subject, being Cannabis and Cannabidiol (CBD) its main focuses. In recent years we have witnessed a domino effect on the legalization and use of cannabis as medical therapy, with the American continent being the epicentre of this movement, and neighbouring countries such as Mexico, Argentina and Colombia are following suit to provide access to patients who desperately need such a therapeutic alternative.

In the following lines, we will talk about the potential of one of the most abundant molecules in Cannabis plants as an antitumor agent, this time focused on breast cancer cell lines.

What Is Breast Cancer?

Breast Cancer and CBDAs mentioned earlier in one of our articles focused on Cancer and CBD, cancer is a disproportionate and uncontrolled growth our cells. As it is known today, this uncontrolled growth can occur in different organs or tissues of our body due to: Mutations at genome level, viral infections or radiation poisoning, among others.

In this particular case, this condition affects cells located in the mammary glands, being one of the most prevalent causes of mortality and morbidity worldwide, being ductal carcinoma the most common among these.

Within the Spanish context, the study led by the Spanish Association Against Cancer, reported in 2014 an incidence of 25,000 cases of breast cancer, resulting in 29% of tumours that affect women between 35 to 80 years.

Cannabidiol: A New Hope Against Breast Cancer

The interest of researchers on the anti-tumour effect of CBD lies largely in the discovery that Cannabidiol is able to interact through cellular systems that regulate the expression of key transcription factors in the proliferation, migration and invasion of cells in breast cancer. The low toxicity of this molecule reported in different studies makes it even more attractive in the creation of novel therapies.

"Cannabinoids can modulate the central signalling pathway of cancer cell growth and metastasis" - Ashutosh Shrivastava, Molecular Cancer Therapeutics - May, 12, 2011

As examples of research, we have McAllister and his team from the California Pacific Medical Centre, who focused on studying the mechanisms and metabolic pathways involved in breast cancer after the administration of CBD in tumour cells:

"... The effects of CBD could occur through the reduction of the proliferation of tumour cells, a decrease in the intra invasion and extra invasion of cells, and / or through the reinitiation of the tumour after cells reach their target tissue ... Indeed, the most dramatic observation of the effect of CBD on secondary tumours was the reduction of metastasis..."

The results found in this experimental design not only give us a clearer vision of the potential of CBD to be able to awaken a response in the different mechanisms of action against cancer, but also bring to light the effectiveness of CBD in these protocols, as well as the importance to take it to larger and more meticulous scales of investigation.

Added to these findings, the comments by researchers from the Complutense University of Madrid report:

"... This anti-tumour activity is produced as it affects different key stages of cancer (sustained cell proliferation, metastasis and angiogenesis), instead of focusing on a single unique cellular / molecular process, and that the components are not only effective but also safe. To take this research to the next level, our level of understanding about cannabinoids must be deeper..."

More Reasons To Implement Cannabinoids Against Cancer

Another point that is emphasized in the final comments is the recommendation concerning current therapies, it is the opinion of Spanish researchers that cannabinoids can be capable of interacting with CB1/CB2 receptors, within therapies such as chemotherapy or immunotherapy. In this way, a synergy could be created at the moment of modulating the different mechanisms and metabolic cascades involved in cancer behaviour. Moreover, it should be mentioned that the presence of CBD would act as a neutralizer of the psychotropic effects of other possible cannabinoids within said alternatives, providing the same with the inherent palliative effects of said molecule.

Finally, the following graphs obtained from the study of Shrivastava et al. present the potential of CBD in a dose-dependent manner as an antitumor agent.

CBD against Breast Cancer

  • In panel a, the cells called MDA-MB-231, typical for the study of breast cancer, without any treatment are observed;
  • Panel b, exposes a condensation and marginalization of the nucleus "N", typical characteristics of cells undergoing apoptosis;
  • In panels b and d, signs of autophagy can be observed: increase in vacuolization and lower proportion of intracellular organelles;
  • In panel c, there is an initial degradation of organelles, as well as vacuoles presenting lamellar structures;
  • Panel e shows the swollen mitochondria without the presence of ridges, as indicated by the white asterisk (the crests are part of a healthy mitochondria).

In Conclusion: CBD vs. Breast Cancer

From these findings, it is hypothesized that Cannabidiol has the capacity to induce apoptosis and autophagy exclusively of breast cancer cells through the production of Stress in the Endoplasmic Reticulum of said cells. This is only a small part of different and more complex research works that try to analyse the concrete mechanisms of how cannabidiol and other phytocannabinoids can help us fight some of the most serious diseases we know. Of course, more research is required.

Please, visit Medical Marijuana for more information on CBD research.

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References:

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  2. Antitumor Activity of Plant Cannabinoids with Emphasis on the Effect of Cannabidiol on Human Breast Carcinoma, Ligresti A, Moriello AS, Starowicz K, Matias I, Pisanti S, De Petrocelis L, et al., J Pharmacol Exp Ther 2006;318:1375-87
  3. Cell Biology: Autophagy and Cancer, Levine B., Nature 2007;446:745-7
  4. Pathways Mediating the Effects of Cannabidiol on the Reduction of Breast Cancer Cell Proliferation, Invasion, and Metastasis, McAllister SD, Murase R, Christian RT, Lau D, Zielinski AJ, Allison J, et al., Breast Cancer Res Treat. Epub 2010 Sep 22
  5. Cannabinoids Induce Apoptosis of Pancreatic Tumor Cells via Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress-related Genes, Carracedo A, Gironella M, Lorente M, Garcia S, Guzman M, Velasco G, et al., Cancer Res 2006;66:6748-55
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