A recent Harvard study on mice has demonstrated that flavonoids in cannabis could shrink pancreatic cancer tumors.
In the study, 70% of the mice treated with the compound saw tumors reduced to almost nothing or disappearing altogether. The study, entitled “Flavonoid Derivative of Cannabis Demonstrates Therapeutic Potential in Preclinical Models of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer” was published recently in Frontiers in Oncology, and it demonstrates some potentially very interesting outcomes.
Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer in humans. That’s mainly due to it being almost impossible to treat with chemical and other therapies. Tragically, 93% of people with pancreatic cancer die within five years, according to statistics. During the study, mice with pancreatic cancer were given flavonoids (compounds in cannabis) and the results were surprising, even for the researchers.
Flavonoids are present in many plants, fruits, and vegetables and are what gives them their unique colors. While there are more than 6,000 known flavonoids, the Harvard study focused on one they called “FBL-03G,” which is found in cannabis. Previous research on cannabis and hemp for other forms of cancer has pointed to the plant’s tumor-reducing properties.
As co-author Dr. Wilfred Ngwa explained according to a Mail Online report, “People have done studies before showing that sometimes cannabis works against cancer, and sometimes it doesn’t.” Studies have successfully demonstrated that cannabis can be effective for some people to treat anxiety and depression.
At the same time, some evidence also suggests that the plant can worsen pre-existing symptoms of psychosis and schizophrenia. However, due to the wide range of cannabis strains, it’s hard to pinpoint specific cannabinoids and flavonoids in the plant. As Dr. Ngwa explained, “So maybe the plant we’re investigating in Boston is very different from what we’re investigating in California.”
While most studies on cannabis have focused on the plant as a whole, Dr. Ngwa and his team were curious to find out more about specific compounds interact. His team separated out various compounds in the plant to ascertain which is the most effective (if at all) for shrinking cancerous tumors. Once the team had isolated the FBL-03G flavonoid, they put it in a petri dish with pancreatic cancer cells.
They also used special technology to inject the flavonoid into cancerous tumors in mice. We were very surprised with the results we got,” said Dr. Ngwa. “We expected it to show some inhibition of tumor growth, but we were quite surprised that it [also] inhibited tumor progression in other parts of the body. We actually had to run some [additional] measurements to see if this was really true. It was.”
While the researchers aren’t sure whether or not the cancer in the mice will return later, they are encouraged by the preliminary results from the research they carried out. At the same time, the team isn’t sure how or why the flavonoid treatment worked so well, although they have some ideas. “We believe that cannabinoids have immune modulation properties,” Dr. Ngwa explained.
He also said that flavonoids in cannabis, “can create these antigen cells that train the T-cells, like a vaccine – to recognize the disease.” Another theory involved somethings called “apoptosis” whereby “It (cannabis) kills cancer cells, but it does it in such a way that it exposes the camouflage of the cancer cells that hides them from T-cells,” explained Dr. Ngwa.
While nobody has five-finger clarity for the time being when it comes to the potential of cannabis to treat cancer and even to eliminate tumors, this recent Harvard study is a step in the right direction. The study concluded that, “A flavonoid derivative of cannabis demonstrates significant therapy potential in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, including radio-sensitizing and cancer metastasis treatment potential. The results justify further studies to optimize therapy outcomes toward clinical translation.”
No doubt, more similar studies will be carried out in the future as many cancer patients hope that alternatives to toxic treatments like chemotherapy and radiation will become the norm before long.
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