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Marijuana Compound May Stop Breast Cancer From Spreading, Study Says

A compound found in cannabis may stop breast cancer from spreading throughout the body, according to a new study by scientists at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute. The researchers are hopeful that the compound called CBD, which is found in cannabis sativa, could be a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy.

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"Right now we have a limited range of options in treating aggressive forms of cancer," said lead researcher Dr. Sean D. McAllister, a cancer researcher at CPMCRI, in a news release. "Those treatments, such as chemotherapy, can be effective but they can also be extremely toxic and difficult for patients. This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects."

The researchers tested CBD to inhibit the activity of a gene called Id-1, which is believed to be responsible for the aggressive spread of cancer cells throughout the body, away from the original tumor site.

"We know that Id-1 is a key regulator of the spread of breast cancer," said Dr. Pierre-Yves Desprez, a cancer researcher at CPMCRI and the senior author of the study, in a news release. "We also know that Id-1 has also been found at higher levels in other forms of cancer. So what is exciting about this study is that if CBD can inhibit Id-1 in breast cancer cells, then it may also prove effective at stopping the spread of cancer cells in other forms of the disease, such as colon and brain or prostate cancer."

Comparing it with another ingredient isolated from marijuana called THC, which is used in some medical treatments, the researchers said CBD does not have any psychoactive properties, so using it would not violate any state or federal laws. However, the researchers stressed that they are not suggesting that breast cancer patients smoke marijuana. They say it is highly unlikely that effective concentrations of CBD could be reached by smoking pot.

The study is published in the latest issue of the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.