A study conducted by researchers at Harvard University shows that the active ingredient in marijuana cuts tumor growth in common lung cancer in half, and significantly reduces the ability of the cancer cells to spread. The researchers conducted the experiment in both lab and mouse studies, with extraordinary results.
They say this is the first set of experiments to show that the compound, Delta-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), inhibits EGF-induced growth and migration in epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) expressing non-small cell lung cancer cell lines. Lung cancers with high levels of EGFR are usually highly aggressive and resistant to chemotherapy.
"The beauty of this study is that we are showing that a substance of abuse, if used prudently, may offer a new road to therapy against lung cancer," said Anju Preet, Ph.D., a researcher in the Division of Experimental Medicine.
Although the researchers do not know why THC inhibits tumor growth, they say the substance could be activating molecules that inhibit the cell cycle. They speculate that THC may also interfere with angiogenesis and vascularization, which promotes cancer growth.
Preet says much work is needed to clarify the pathway by which THC functions, and cautions that some animal studies have shown that THC can stimulate some cancers. "THC offers some promise, but we have a long way to go before we know what its potential is."