Researchers at California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco have discovered cannabidiol (CBD), a compound derived from marijuana, may stop many kinds of aggressive cancers from spreading.
If the therapeutic compound works in humans as expected, the discovery could eventually make cancer curable.
Two research teams led by molecular biologists Dr. Pierre Desprez, lead investigator, and Dr. Sean McAllister have been studying the effects of CBD, a non-toxic and non-psychoactive chemical compound found in the cannabis plant, on elevated levels of Id1 genes and proteins.
The Id1 gene regulates the normal development and death cycle of epithelial cells in healthy people. In people with cancer, something goes haywire with the molecular mechanisms that regulate this complex system and cells encoded with the Id1 gene begin to proliferate uncontrolled.
Dr. Desprez found high Id gene and protein levels are associated with aggressive cancers that are progressing toward untreatable stages.
When aggressive breast cancer cells were combined with CBD in a petri dish, a miracle happened: The metastasizing Id1 cells simply turn off and return to a normal, regulated state.
“It took us 20 years of research to figure it out, and we are pretty excited,” Dr. Desprez told The Huffington Post . “We want to get started with [clinical] trials as soon as possible.”
The duo started their collaboration by researching how cannabidiol affected aggressive breast cancer, but they now believe CBD will work with many other kinds of aggressive cancers too: glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) brain cancer, non-small cell lung cancer, prostate cancer, or any other cancer type where high levels of Id1 are present.
CBD has already undergone laboratory and animal testing, and is awaiting permission for clinical trials in humans.
"We've found no toxicity in the animals we've tested, and CBD is already used in humans for a variety of other ailments," Dr. Desprez said.
The cannabis compound is already used to relieve anxiety and nausea, and, since it is non-psychoactive, does not cause the "high" associated with THC found in the street drug.
Since clinical trials will likely take years, the news doesn’t offer much new hope for current patients with aggressive cancers, but could mean in the future cancer will no longer be considered a fatal disease.
CBD could replace chemotherapy, but it won’t be delivered by simply lighting up, the researchers said. It would be impossible to get enough cannabidiol by smoking it.
If FDA approved, CDB will more than likely be injected or administered in pill form. Both currently exist. The researchers have already started synthesizing the compound in the lab instead of using the plant to make it more potent.
Lynette Summerill is an award-winning writer and Scuba enthusiast living in San Diego, CA with her husband and two beach loving dogs. In addition to writing about cancer-related issues for EmpowHER, her work has been seen in newspapers and magazines around the world.
“Cannabidiol as a novel inhibitor of ID-1 gene expression in aggressive breast cancer cells. “ McAllister S.D., Christian R.T, Horowitz MP, Garcia A. Desprez PY. Molecular Cancer Theraputics, Nov 2007 6; 2921 doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-07-0371. Abstract online at:
Marijuana And Cancer: Scientists Find Cannabis Compound Stops Metastasis In Aggressive Cancers. Robin Wilkey. The Huffington Post. 19 Sep 2012. Access at:
Reviewed September 25, 2012
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith