Cannabis extract found to slow melanoma cell growth

Friday, 23 February, 2024

Cannabis extract found to slow melanoma cell growth

A cannabis extract has shown positive results in slowing down melanoma cell growth and increasing cell death rates, according to an in vitro study published in the journal Cells.

Researchers from Charles Darwin University (CDU) and RMIT University investigated programmed cell death caused by a specific cannabis extract (cannabinoid PHEC-66) from the Cannabis sativa plant. Their study found that the extract binds to receptor sites on particular melanoma cells, then controls the growth of cells at two pivotal phases and increases the amount of damage to the cells. As explained by CDU pharmaceutical lecturer and co-author Dr Nazim Nassar, this damage effectively manipulates the cell into killing itself.

“The damage to the melanoma cell prevents it from dividing into new cells, and instead begins a programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis,” Nassar said.

“This is a growing area of important research because we need to understand cannabis extracts as much as possible, especially their potential to function as anticancer agents.

“If we know how they react to cancer cells, particularly in the cause of cell death, we can refine treatment techniques to be more specific, responsive and effective.”

Nassar said the next challenge will be developing a targeted delivery system to the melanoma cells in preparation for preclinical trials. “Advanced delivery systems still need to be fully developed, underscoring the importance of ongoing efforts to ensure the proper and effective use of these agents at target sites,” he said.

RMIT biotechnologist Professor Nitin Mantri, lead author on the study, acknowledged the necessity for a long-term follow-up to ensure the sustained effectiveness and safety of the PHEC-66 extract in cancer treatment over extended periods, stressing the importance of testing the safety profile of the extract before its widespread adoption.

“The subsequent stage involves animal studies or preclinical trials to validate and further explore the efficacy of cannabinoid PHEC-66 in treating melanoma and other cancers,” Mantri said.

He also highlighted the critical collaboration with Nassar, emphasising the need for support and sponsorship from pharmaceutical companies to qualify PHEC-66 as a registered medicine. This support is essential for advancing the development and application of cannabis extracts in cancer treatment, leveraging Nassar’s expertise as a healthcare professional, pharmacologist and pharmaceutical scientist.

Nassar concluded that while the use of cannabis extracts to treat a variety of health conditions is still stigmatised, further research into PHEC-66 could revolutionise cancer treatment. “Intensive research into its potential for killing melanoma cells is only the start as we investigate how this knowledge can be applied to treating different types of cancers,” he said.

Image credit: Preciado

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