Receptor-targeted nanoparticles modulate cannabinoid anticancer activity through delayed cell internalization

Scientific Reports

“Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) is known for its antitumor activity and palliative effects.

However, its unfavorable physicochemical and biopharmaceutical properties, including low bioavailability, psychotropic side effects and resistance mechanisms associated to dosing make mandatory the development of successful drug delivery systems.

In this work, transferring (Tf) surface-modified Δ9-THC-loaded poly(lactide-co-glycolic) nanoparticles (Tf-THC-PLGA NPs) were proposed and evaluated as novel THC-based anticancer therapy. Furthermore, in order to assess the interaction of both the nanocarrier and the loaded drug with cancer cells, a double-fluorescent strategy was applied, including the chemical conjugation of a dye to the nanoparticle polymer along with the encapsulation of either a lipophilic or a hydrophilic dye.

Tf-THC PLGA NPs exerted a cell viability decreased down to 17% vs. 88% of plain nanoparticles, while their internalization was significantly slower than plain nanoparticles. Uptake studies in the presence of inhibitors indicated that the nanoparticles were internalized through cholesterol-associated and clathrin-mediated mechanisms.

Overall, Tf-modification of PLGA NPs showed to be a highly promising approach for Δ9-THC-based antitumor therapies, potentially maximizing the amount of drug released in a sustained manner at the surface of cells bearing cannabinoid receptors.”

“The potential therapeutic applications of marijuana, firstly reported in 1997 by the National Institutes of Health (NIH, USA), are attributed to a great extent to its main component, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC)1. This cannabinoid continues to attract special attention in oncology due to its palliative effects and antitumor activity; Δ9-THC has been reported to inhibit tumor angiogenesis and cell growth in malignant tissues, leading to cell death.”

“Δ9-THC has been reported to inhibit tumor angiogenesis and cell growth in malignant tissues.”

“Overall, Tf-modification of PLGA NPs seemed a highly promising approach for Δ9-THC-based antitumor therapies, aiming at a prolonged action of the carrier at the target cell surface. Moreover, the translation of this strategy to the delivery of alternative active pharmaceutical ingredients with pharmacological targets on the surface of cells could lead to advances in related therapies.”

In Vitro Effect of Δ9-Tetrahydrocannabinol and Cannabidiol on Cancer-Associated Fibroblasts Isolated from Lung Cancer


“There is evidence that demonstrates the effect of cannabinoid agonists inhibiting relevant aspects in lung cancer, such as proliferation or epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT).

Most of these studies are based on evidence observed in in vitro models developed on cancer cell lines. These studies do not consider the complexity of the tumor microenvironment (TME). One of the main components of the TME is cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs), cells that are relevant in the control of proliferation and metastasis in lung cancer.

In this work, we evaluated the direct effects of two cannabinoid agonists, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), used alone or in combination, on CAFs and non-tumor normal fibroblasts (NFs) isolated from adenocarcinoma or from healthy lung tissue from the same patients.

We observed that these compounds decrease cell density in vitro and inhibit the increase in the relative expression of type 1 collagen (COL1A1) and fibroblast-specific protein 1 (FSP1) induced by transforming growth factor beta (TGFβ). On the other hand, we studied whether THC and CBD could modulate the interactions between CAFs or NFs and cancer cells. We conditioned the culture medium with stromal cells treated or not with THC and/or CBD and cultured A549 cells with them.

We found that culture media conditioned with CAFs or NFs increased cell density, induced morphological changes consistent with EMT, inhibited cadherin-1 (CDH1) gene expression, and induced an increase in the relative expression of cadherin-2 (CDH2) and vimentin (VIM) genes in A549 cells. These changes were inhibited or decreased by THC and CBD administered alone or in combination. In another series of experiments, we conditioned culture media with A549 cells treated or not with THC and/or CBD, in the presence or absence of TGFβ. We observed that culture media conditioned with A549 in the presence of TGFβ induced an increase in the expression of COL1A1 and VIM, both in CAFs and in non-tumor NFs. Both THC and CBD ameliorated these effects.

In summary, the results presented here reinforce the usefulness of cannabinoid agonists for the treatment of some relevant aspects of lung cancer pathology, and demonstrate in a novel way their possible effects on CAFs as a result of their relationship with cancer cells. Likewise, the results reinforce the usefulness of the combined use of THC and CBD, which has important advantages in relation to the possibility of using lower doses, thus minimizing the psychoactive effects of THC.”

Cannabidiol Interacts Antagonistically with Cisplatin and Additively with Mitoxantrone in Various Melanoma Cell Lines-An Isobolographic Analysis


“The medical application of cannabidiol (CBD) has been gathering increasing attention in recent years. This non-psychotropic cannabis-derived compound possesses antiepileptic, antipsychotic, anti-inflammatory and anxiolytic properties. Recent studies report that it also exerts antineoplastic effects in multiple types of cancers, including melanoma.

In this in vitro study we tried to reveal the anticancer properties of CBD in malignant melanoma cell lines (SK-MEL 28, A375, FM55P and FM55M2) administered alone, as well as in combination with mitoxantrone (MTX) or cisplatin (CDDP).

The effects of CBD on the viability of melanoma cells were measured by the MTT assay; cytotoxicity was determined in the LDH test and proliferation in the BrdU test. Moreover, the safety of CBD was tested in human keratinocytes (HaCaT) in LDH and MTT tests.

Results indicate that CBD reduces the viability and proliferation of melanoma-malignant cells and exerts additive interactions with MTX. Unfortunately, CBD produced antagonistic interaction when combined with CDDP. CBD does not cause significant cytotoxicity in HaCaT cell line.

In conclusion, CBD may be considered as a part of melanoma multi-drug therapy when combined with MTX. A special attention should be paid to the combination of CBD with CDDP due to the antagonistic interaction observed in the studied malignant melanoma cell lines.”

Mechanisms of Cannabidiol (CBD) in Cancer Treatment: A Review


“Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabis) and its bioactive compounds, including cannabinoids and non-cannabinoids, have been extensively studied for their biological effects in recent decades. Cannabidiol (CBD), a major non-intoxicating cannabinoid in Cannabis, has emerged as a promising intervention for cancer research.

The purpose of this review is to provide insights into the relationship between CBD and cancer based on recent research findings.

The anticancer effects of CBD are mainly mediated via its interaction with the endocannabinoid system, resulting in the alleviation of pain and the promotion of immune regulation. Published reviews have focused on the applications of CBD in cancer pain management and the possible toxicological effects of its excessive consumption.

In this review, we aim to summarize the mechanisms of action underlying the anticancer activities of CBD against several common cancers. Studies on the efficacy and mechanisms of CBD on cancer prevention and intervention in experimental models (i.e., cell culture- and animal-based assays) and human clinical studies are included in this review.”

“Emerging evidence suggests positive outcomes from the use of CBD as a cancer treatment. CBD can relieve cancer pain and ease the side effects of chemotherapy; however, there is less research about the mechanism of CBD’s anticancer effects. In this article, recent studies on the efficacy and mechanisms of CBD’s anticancer effects in cell- and animal-based models and human clinical studies are reviewed.”

Cannabidiol and Cannabigerol Inhibit Cholangiocarcinoma Growth In Vitro via Divergent Cell Death Pathways


“Cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) is a rare and highly lethal disease with few effective treatment options.

Cannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) and cannabigerol (CBG) are non-psychedelic components extracted from cannabis. These non-psychoactive compounds have shown anti-proliferative potential in other tumor models; however, the efficacy of CBD and CBG in CCA is unknown. Furthermore, two cell death pathways are implicated with CBD resulting in autophagic degeneration and CBG in apoptosis. HuCC-T1 cells, Mz-ChA-1 cells (CCA cell lines) and H69 cells (immortalized cholangiocytes), were treated with CBD and CBG for 24 to 48 h.

The influence of these cannabinoids on proliferation was assessed via MTT assay. Apoptosis and cell cycle were evaluated via Annexin-V apoptosis assay and propidium iodide, respectively. The expression of proliferation biomarker Ki-67, apoptosis biomarker BAX, and autophagic flux biomarkers LC3b and LAMP1 were evaluated via immunofluorescence. Cell migration and invasion were evaluated via wound healing assay and trans-well migration invasion assays, respectively. The colony formation was evaluated via colony formation assay. In addition, the expression of autophagy gene LC3b and apoptosis genes BAX, Bcl-2, and cleaved caspase-3 were evaluated via Western blot.

CBD and CBG are non-selective anti-proliferative agents yielding similar growth curves in CCA; both cannabinoids are effective, yet CBG is more active at lower doses. Low doses of CBD and CBG enhanced immortalized cholangiocyte activity. The reduction in proliferation begins immediately and occurs maximally within 24 h of treatment. Moreover, a significant increase in the late-stage apoptosis and a reduction in the number of cells in S stage of the cell cycle indicates both CBD and CBG treatment could promote apoptosis and inhibit mitosis in CCA cells. The fluorescent expression of BAX and LC3b was significantly enhanced with CBD treatment when compared to control. LAMP1 and LC3b colocalization could also be observed with CBD and CBG treatment indicating changes in autophagic flux.

A significant inhibition of migration, invasion and colony formation ability was shown in both CBD and CBG treatment in CCA. Western blot showed an overall decrease in the ratio of anti-apoptotic protein Bcl-2 with respect to pro-apoptotic protein BAX with CBG treatment. Furthermore, CBD treatment enhanced the expression of Type II cell death (autophagic degeneration) protein LC3b, which was reduced in CBG-treated CCA cells. Meanwhile, CBG treatment upregulated Type I cell death (programmed apoptosis) protein cleaved caspase-3.

CBD and CBG are effective anti-cancer agents against CCA, capable of inhibiting the classic hallmarks of cancer, with a divergent mechanism of action (Type II or Type I respectively) in inducing these effects.”

Extracellular vesicles of cannabis with high CBD content induce anticancer signaling in human hepatocellular carcinoma

Biomedicine & Pharmacotherapy

“Plant-derived extracellular vesicles (EVs) have been the topic of interest in recent years due to their proven therapeutic properties. Intact or manipulated plant EVs have shown antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancerous activities as a result of containing bioactive metabolites and other endogenous molecules. Less is known about the EV efficacy with high levels of bioactive secondary metabolites derived from medicinal or non-edible plants.

Numerous data suggest the functionality of Cannabis sativa extract and its phytocannabinoids in cancer treatment. Here, two chemotypes of cannabis with different levels of D-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) were selected. EVs were isolated from each chemotype via differential ultracentrifugation. HPLC analysis was illustrative of the absence of THC in EVs derived from both plants. Therefore, two types of EVs were classified according to their CBD content into high- (H.C-EVs) and low-CBD EVs (L.C-EVs). Electron microscopy and DLS showed both cannabis-derived EVs (CDEVs) can be considered as exosome-like nanovesicles. Cytotoxicity assay showed that H.C-EVs strongly decreased the viability of two hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) cell lines, HepG2 and Huh-7, in a dose and time-dependent manner compared with L.C-EVs. H.C-EVs had no significant effect on HUVECs normal cell growth. The finding showed that the H.C-EVs arrested the G0/G1 phase in the cell cycle and significantly induced cell death by activating mitochondrial-dependent apoptosis signaling pathways in both HCC cell lines.

Altogether, the current study highlights that CDEVs can be an ideal natural vehicle for bioactive phytocannabinoids and a promising strategy in cancer management.”

“Altogether, our findings suggest that the EVs derived from cannabis can act as natural nano-carriers containing bioactive phytochemicals and be used in cancer research. The possible use of these biomaterials in combination with chemotherapy drugs can open a new gateway for cancer treatment.”

Fig. 1

Protective Effects of Cannabidiol on Chemotherapy-Induced Oral Mucositis via the Nrf2/Keap1/ARE Signaling Pathways

Archive of "Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity". - PMC

“Oral mucositis (OM) is a common complication during chemotherapy characterized by ulceration, mucosa atrophy, and necrosis, which seriously interferes with nutritional intake and oncotherapy procedures among patients. However, the efficacy of current treatments for OM remains limited.

Cannabidiol (CBD) is a natural cannabinoid with multiple biological activities, including antioxidant and anti-inflammatory potential. In this study, we aimed to investigate the chemopreventive effects and mechanisms of CBD in protecting C57BL/6N mice and human oral keratinocytes (HOK) from 5-fluorouracil- (5-FU-) induced OM.

Here, we found that CBD alleviated the severity of 5-FU-induced OM in mice, including improved survival, decreased body weight loss, reduced ulcer sizes, and improved clinical scores. Histologically, CBD restored epithelial thickness and normal structure in tongue tissues. Meanwhile, CBD attenuated reactive oxygen species (ROS) overproduction and improved the antioxidant response, suppressed the inflammatory response, promoted the proliferation of epithelial cells, and inhibited 5-FU-induced apoptosis. In vitro, consistent outcomes showed that CBD suppressed cellular ROS levels, enhanced antioxidant ability, reduced inflammatory response, promoted proliferation, and inhibited apoptosis in 5-FU-treated HOK cells. In particular, CBD upregulated the expression levels of antioxidant enzymes, heme oxygenase-1 (HO-1) and NAD(P)H quinine oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1), by increasing the expression and nuclear translocation of nuclear factor erythroid 2-related factor 2 (Nrf2) and decreasing Kelch-like ECH-associated protein 1 (Keap1). Notably, the Nrf2 inhibitor ML385 reversed the protective effect of CBD. Nrf2-siRNA transfection also significantly blunted the antioxidant effect of CBD in in vitro OM model.

Collectively, our findings suggested that CBD protected against 5-FU-induced OM injury at least partially via the Nrf2/Keap1/ARE signaling pathways, highlighting the therapeutic prospects of CBD as a novel strategy for chemotherapy-induced OM.”

“CBD alleviates chemotherapy-induced OM and protects against the toxicity of 5-FU by improving oxidative stress defense, downregulating mucosal inflammation, promoting cell proliferation, and inhibiting 5-FU-induced apoptosis both in mice and in HOK. Moreover, CBD-activated Nrf2/Keap1/ARE signaling pathways might be the underlying mechanism for OM recovery.”

Biological Effects of Cannabidiol on Human Cancer Cells: Systematic Review of the Literature

Pharmacological Research

“This systematic review examine the biological effects of CBD, a major component of therapeutic Cannabis, on human pathological and cancer cell populations of integumentary, gastro-intestinal, genital and breast, respiratory, nervous, haematopoietic and skeletal districts in terms of cell viability, proliferation, migration, apoptosis, inflammation, metastasis, and CBD receptor expression. The included studies were in English, on human cell lines and primary culture from non-healthy donors with CBD exposure as variable and no CBD exposure as control. Quality assessment was based on ToxRtool with a reliability score ranging from 15 to 18. Following the PRISMA statement 4 independent reviewers performed an electronic search using MEDLINE via PubMed, Scopus and Web of Science. From 3974 articles, 83 studies have been selected. Data showed conflicting results due to different concentration exposure, administrations and time points. CBD inhibited cell viability and proliferation in most cellular districts except the integumentary apparatus. Also a significant inhibition of migration was observed in all cell types, while an increase in apoptosis at both high and low doses (greater and less than 10μM respectively). Considering inflammation, CBD caused an anti-inflammatory effect on nervous cells at low doses and on gastro-intestinal cells at high doses, while metastatic power was reduced even at low doses, but in a skeletal cell line there was an increased angiogenesis. CB1 receptor has been related to viability effects, CB2 to apoptosis and TRPV1 to inflammation and invasiveness. A detailed insight into these aspects would allow therapeutic use of this substance without possible side effects.”

Cannabinoid Receptor-1 suppresses M2 macrophage polarization in colorectal cancer by downregulating EGFR

Cell Death Discovery

“Cannabinoid receptors, CB1 and CB2, have been implicated as emerging targets for cancer therapy. Herein, we investigated the potential regulation mechanism of CB1 and its implications in colorectal cancer. CB1 and EGFR expression were examined in colorectal cancer cell lines. The effects of CB1 agonist ACEA and its antagonist AM251 on the proliferation, migration and invasion of colorectal cancer cells and the expression of M1 and M2 macrophage markers were examined. EGFR overexpression was performed with plasmids containing EGFR gene. Tumor xenografts were constructed to explore the effects of CB1 activation on tumorigenesis. We showed that CB1 was downregulated while EGFR was upregulated in colorectal cancer cells. The activation of CB1 suppressed the proliferation, migration and invasion of colorectal cancer cells and the differentiation of M2 macrophages, while CB1 inhibition had opposite effects. Moreover, the alterations in tumorigenesis and M2 macrophage activation induced by CB1 activation were counteracted by EGFR overexpression. Besides, CB1 silencing promoted tumor cell proliferation and M2 polarization which was counteracted by EGFR knockdown. In vivo, CB1 activation also repressed tumorigenesis and M2 macrophage activation. The present study demonstrated that CB1 activation suppressed M2 macrophage through EGFR downregulation in colorectal cancers. These findings first unveiled the potential avenue of CB1 as a targeted therapy for colorectal cancer.”

“In conclusion, our study showed that CB1 activation suppressed tumor growth and M2 macrophage activation in colorectal cancer by downregulating EGFR. Our study provided the first evidence that CB1 activation was capable to suppress M2 macrophage activation. Since M2 macrophage are linked with immune evasion in various cancers, CB1 might be a promising target for cancer treatment.”

“The use of THC, or selective targeting of the CB1 receptor, may represent a novel strategy for colorectal cancer therapy.”

The Effectiveness and Safety of Medical Cannabis for Treating Cancer Related Symptoms in Oncology Patients

Frontiers in Pain Research (@FrontPain) / Twitter

“The use of medical cannabis (MC) to treat cancer-related symptoms is rising. However, there is a lack of long-term trials to assess the benefits and safety of MC treatment in this population. In this work, we followed up prospectively and longitudinally on the effectiveness and safety of MC treatment.

Oncology patients reported on multiple symptoms before and after MC treatment initiation at one-, three-, and 6-month follow-ups. Oncologists reported on the patients’ disease characteristics. Intention-to-treat models were used to assess changes in outcomes from baseline. MC treatment was initiated by 324 patients and 212, 158 and 126 reported at follow-ups.

Most outcome measures improved significantly during MC treatment for most patients (p < 0.005). Specifically, at 6 months, total cancer symptoms burden declined from baseline by a median of 18%, from 122 (82–157) at baseline to 89 (45–138) at endpoint (−18.98; 95%CI= −26.95 to −11.00; p < 0.001). Reported adverse effects were common but mostly non-serious and remained stable during MC treatment.

The results of this study suggest that MC treatment is generally safe for oncology patients and can potentially reduce the burden of associated symptoms with no serious MC-related adverse effects.

The main finding of the current study is that most cancer comorbid symptoms improved significantly during 6 months of MC treatment.

Additionally, we found that MC treatment in cancer patients was well tolerated and safe.”