Here's What Marijuana Is Doing To Breast Cancer

Cannabis has numerous uses, from a recreational relaxer to medicine to synthetic fuel. Cannabidiol, or CBD, is a non-psychoactive phyocannabidiol that can be derived of the cannabis plant. CBD has been gaining traction in the medical community and public for its medicinal qualities. CBD seems to have the ability to reduce inflammation, curb anxiety, treat depression and PTSD, and in some cases, even slow down or stop seizures.

A new study published by the American Association for Cancer Research found that CBD inflicts programmed cell death in breast cancer cells.

"Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in women in the United States. Conventional treatment options are often limited by toxicity or acquired resistance, and novel agents are needed. We analyzed the effects of the Cannabis sativa constituent, cannabidiol (CBD), a potent, natural compound with reported activity in breast cancer cell lines, and elucidated its effects on key neoplastic pathways.

Additionally, they write:

"We found that CBD inhibited the survival of both estrogen receptor-positive and estrogen receptor-negative breast cancer cell lines and induced apoptosis in a concentration-dependent manner. Moreover, at these concentrations, CBD had little effect on MCF-10A cells, nontumorigenic, mammary cells. These data enhance the desirability of CBD as an anticancer agent, because they suggest that CBD preferentially kills breast cancer cells, while minimizing damage to normal breast tissue."

One of the reasons programmed cell death is so important is because it doesn't come with the significant harm to healthy cells that comes with chemotherapy. Anyone who's undergone chemotherapy can tell you that the side effects are potentially devastating.

Cannabinoids work by binding to cell receptors that make up the endocannabinoid system. Those receptors are called CB1 and CB2. CBD's effects on breast cancer were independent of these receptors, however, as the authors noted:

"Many cannabinoids mediate their effects by binding to CB1, CB2, or the vallinoid receptor (3, 4); however, our results indicate that CBD induces PCD independent of these receptors. This is a promising area for future investigation in that identifying the receptor through which CBD mediates its anticancer effects may better inform the design of novel drugs with a mechanism of action similar to CBD.

"In this study we showed that CBD induced both apoptosis and autophagy-induced death in breast cancer cells. PCD by apoptosis is well-documented, whereas autophagy-mediated cell death is a relatively recent discovery, and there is much to be learned about the factors that prejudice autophagy toward self-protection or self-destruction."

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