A zebrafish HCT116 xenograft model to predict anandamide outcomes on colorectal cancer

Cell Death & Disease

“Colon cancer is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. In recent years, cannabinoids have been extensively studied for their potential anticancer effects and symptom management. Several in vitro studies reported anandamide’s (AEA) ability to block cancer cell proliferation and migration, but evidence from in vivo studies is still lacking. Thus, in this study, the effects of AEA exposure in zebrafish embryos transplanted with HCT116 cells were evaluated.

Totally, 48 hpf xenografts were exposed to 10 nM AEA, 10 nM AM251, one of the cannabinoid 1 receptor (CB1) antagonist/inverse agonists, and to AEA + AM251, to verify the specific effect of AEA treatment. AEA efficacy was evaluated by confocal microscopy, which demonstrated that these xenografts presented a smaller tumor size, reduced tumor angiogenesis, and lacked micrometastasis formation.

To gain deeper evidence into AEA action, microscopic observations were completed by molecular analyses. RNA seq performed on zebrafish transcriptome reported the downregulation of genes involved in cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and the immune system. Conversely, HCT116 cell transcripts resulted not affected by AEA treatment. In vitro HCT116 culture, in fact, confirmed that AEA exposure did not affect cell proliferation and viability, thus suggesting that the reduced tumor size mainly depends on direct effects on the fish rather than on the transplanted cancer cells.

AEA reduced cell proliferation and tumor angiogenesis, as suggested by socs3 and pcnp mRNAs and Vegfc protein levels, and exerted anti-inflammatory activity, as indicated by the reduction of il-11a, mhc1uba, and csf3b mRNA. Of note, are the results obtained in groups exposed to AM251, which presence nullifies AEA’s beneficial effects.

In conclusion, this study promotes the efficacy of AEA in personalized cancer therapy, as suggested by its ability to drive tumor growth and metastasis, and strongly supports the use of zebrafish xenograft as an emerging model platform for cancer studies.”


“Collectively, our data suggest a pivotal role of AEA in the anti-angiogenic, anti-proliferative, and anti-inflammatory process in intercellular tumor-endothelial cell communication resulting in the containment of tumor and evidenced that zebrafish larvae xenografts constitute a promising fast assay for precision medicine, bridging the gap between genotype and phenotype in an in vivo setting.”


Selective Cytotoxicity of Medical Cannabis ( Cannabis sativa L.) Extracts Across the Whole Vegetation Cycle Under Various Hydroponic and Nutritional Treatments

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“Introduction: The use of Cannabis sativa L. in health care requires stringent care for the optimal production of the bioactive compounds. However, plant phenotypes and the content of secondary metabolites, such as phytocannabinoids, are strongly influenced by external factors, such as nutrient availability. It has been shown that phytocannabinoids can exhibit selective cytotoxicity against various cancer cell lines while protecting healthy tissue from apoptosis. 

Research Aim: This study aimed to clarify the cytotoxic effect of cannabis extracts on colorectal cell lines by identifying the main active compounds and determining their abundance and activity across all developmental stages of medical cannabis plants cultivated under hydroponic conditions. 

Materials and Methods: Dimethyl sulfoxide extracts of medical cannabis plants bearing the genotype classified as chemotype I were analyzed by high-performance liquid chromatography, and their cytotoxic activity was determined by measuring cell viability by methylthiazolyldiphenyl-tetrazolium bromide assay on the human colon cancer cell lines, Caco-2 and HT-29, and the normal human epithelial cell line, CCD 841 CoN. 

Results: The most abundant phytocannabinoid in cannabis extracts was tetrahydrocannabinolic acid (THCA). Its maximum concentrations were reached from the 7th to the 13th plant vegetation week, depending on the nutritional cycle and treatment. Almost all extracts were cytotoxic to the human colorectal cancer (CRC) cell line HT-29 at lower concentrations than the other cell lines. The phytocannabinoids that most affected the cytotoxicity of individual extracts on HT-29 were cannabigerol, Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabidiol, cannabigerolic acid, and THCA. The tested model showed almost 70% influence of these cannabinoids. However, THCA alone influenced the cytotoxicity of individual extracts by nearly 65%. 

Conclusions: Phytocannabinoid extracts from plants of the THCA-dominant chemotype interacted synergistically and showed selective cytotoxicity against the CRC cell line, HT-29. This positive extract response indicates possible therapeutic value.”



Supercritical Extract of Cannabis sativa Inhibits Lung Metastasis in Colorectal Cancer Cells by Increasing AMPK and MAPKs-Mediated Apoptosis and Cell Cycle Arrest


“Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the diseases with the highest rates of prevalence and mortality despite therapeutic methods in the world. In particular, there are not enough methods to treat metastasis of CRC cells to distant organs. Cannabis sativa Linne (C. sativa) is a popular medicinal plant used by humans to treat many diseases. Recently, extracts of C. sativa have shown diverse pharmacological effects as a result of choosing different extraction methods. In this study, we performed experiments to confirm the inhibitory effect and related mechanisms of supercritical extract of C. sativa on metastatic CRC cells. The effect of SEC on the viability of CRC cell lines, CT26 and HCT116, was determined using CCK reagent. Flow cytometry was performed to confirm whether SEC can promote cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Additionally, SEC reduced proliferation of CT26 and HCT116 cells without causing toxicity to normal colon cell line CCD-18Co cells. SEC treatment reduced colony formation in both CRC cell lines, promoted G0/G1 phase arrest and apoptosis in CT26 and HCT116 cells through AMPK activation and MAPKs such as ERK, JNK, and p38 inactivation. Moreover, oral administration of SEC decreased pulmonary metastasis of CT26 cells. Our research demonstrates the inhibitory effect of SEC on CRC cell proliferation and metastasis. Thus, SEC might have therapeutic potential for CRC treatment.”



Role of Cannabidiol for Improvement of the Quality of Life in Cancer Patients: Potential and Challenges


“There is currently a growing interest in the use of cannabidiol (CBD) to alleviate the symptoms caused by cancer, including pain, sleep disruption, and anxiety. CBD is often self-administered as an over-the-counter supplement, and patients have reported benefits from its use. However, despite the progress made, the mechanisms underlying CBD’s anti-cancer activity remain divergent and unclear. Herein, we provide a comprehensive review of molecular mechanisms to determine convergent anti-cancer actions of CBD from pre-clinical and clinical studies. In vitro studies have begun to elucidate the molecular targets of CBD and provide evidence of CBD’s anti-tumor properties in cell and mouse models of cancer. Furthermore, several clinical trials have been completed testing CBD’s efficacy in treating cancer-related pain. However, most use a mixture of CBD and the psychoactive, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), and/or use variable dosing that is not consistent between individual patients. Despite these limitations, significant reductions in pain and opioid use have been reported in cancer patients using CBD or CBD+THC. Additionally, significant improvements in quality-of-life measures and patients’ overall satisfaction with their treatment have been reported. Thus, there is growing evidence suggesting that CBD might be useful to improve the overall quality of life of cancer patients by both alleviating cancer symptoms and by synergizing with cancer therapies to improve their efficacy. However, many questions remain unanswered regarding the use of CBD in cancer treatment, including the optimal dose, effective combinations with other drugs, and which biomarkers/clinical presentation of symptoms may guide its use.”


“CBD has great potential to improve the lives of cancer patients both by alleviating the symptoms of pain, sleep disturbance, and anxiety, but also by synergistic activity with anti-cancer treatments to reverse or eliminate the growth of tumors causing these symptoms. Pre-clinical evidence in cell and mouse models supports the use of CBD as an anti-cancer therapy; however, clinical knowledge is currently lacking in this area. The effectiveness of CBD has been demonstrated in models of lung, breast, and colon cancer, as well as leukemia and glioblastoma. CBD has been shown to be toxic to cancer cells in vitro, and it is also generally well tolerated in the clinic.”


The Synthetic Cannabinoid URB447 Exerts Antitumor and Antimetastatic Effect in Melanoma and Colon Cancer


“The endocannabinoid system is widespread through the body and carries out a wide variety of functions. However, its involvement in other pathologies, such as cancer, still needs further attention. We aim to investigate the role of CB2 receptor during melanoma and colorectal cancer (CRC) aggressiveness and metastatic growth in the liver. We used the synthetic cannabinoid URB447, a known CB2 agonist and CB1 antagonist drug, and studied prometastatic ability of mouse B16 melanoma and MCA38 CRC cells, by means of proliferation, apoptosis, cell cycle, migration and matrix degradation in vitro upon URB447 treatment. We reported a dose-dependent viability decrease in both tumor types. This result is partly mediated by apoptotic cell death and cell cycle arrest in G1/G0 phase, as observed through flow cytometry. Melanoma and CRC cell migration was affected in a dose-dependent fashion as observed through scratch assay, whereas the secretion of matrix degrading proteins metalloprotease 2 (MMP2) and 9 (MMP9) in tumor cells did not significantly change. Moreover, daily treatment of tumor bearing mice with URB447 decreased the development of liver metastasis in a melanoma model in vivo. This proof of concept study points out to the synthetic cannabinoid URB447 as a potential candidate for deeper studies to confirm its potential as antitumor therapy and liver metastasis treatment for CRC and melanoma.”



The Cytotoxic Effect of Isolated Cannabinoid Extracts on Polypoid Colorectal Tissue


“Purified cannabinoids have been shown to prevent proliferation and induce apoptosis in colorectal carcinoma cell lines.

To assess the cytotoxic effect of cannabinoid extracts and purified cannabinoids on both colorectal polyps and normal colonic cells, as well as their synergistic interaction. Various blends were tested to identify the optimal synergistic effect.

Methods: Biopsies from polyps and healthy colonic tissue were obtained from 22 patients undergoing colonic polypectomies. The toxicity of a variety of cannabinoid extracts and purified cannabinoids at different concentrations was evaluated. The synergistic effect of cannabinoids was calculated based on the cells’ survival.

Isolated cannabinoids illustrated different toxic effects on the viability of cells derived from colorectal polyps. THC-d8 and THC-d9 were the most toxic and exhibited persistent toxicity in all the polyps tested. CBD was more toxic to polypoid cells in comparison to normal colonic cells at a concentration of 15 µM. The combinations of the cannabinoids CBDV, THCV, CBDVA, CBCA, and CBGA exhibited a synergistic inhibitory effect on the viability of cells derived from colon polyps of patients.

Isolated cannabinoid compounds interacted synergistically against colonic polyps, and some also possessed a differential toxic effect on polyp and adjacent colonic tissue, suggesting possible future therapeutic value.”


“To conclude, our study results support the potential cytotoxic effect of cannabinoid extracts on colorectal polyps, as well as their synergistic and differential interactions. Further studies examining this postulation and the ultimate combination of cannabinoids for inhibiting/decreasing the recurrence rate of neoplastic polyps, and for preventing their malignant transformation into adenocarcinoma, are needed.”


Cannabinoids, Medical Cannabis, and Colorectal Cancer Immunotherapy


“Colorectal cancer is a major public health problem. Unfortunately, currently, no effective curative option exists for this type of malignancy. The most promising cancer treatment nowadays is immunotherapy which is also called biological or targeted therapy.

This type of therapy boosts the patient’s immune system ability to fight the malignant tumor. However, cancer cells may become resistant to immunotherapy and escape immune surveillance by obtaining genetic alterations. Therefore, new treatment strategies are required.

In the recent decade, several reports suggest the effectiveness of cannabinoids and Cannabis sativa extracts for inhibiting cancer proliferation in vitro and in vivo, including intestinal malignancies.

Cannabinoids were shown to modulate the pathways involved in cell proliferation, angiogenesis, programmed cell death and metastasis. Because of that, they are proposed as adjunct therapy for many malignancies. By far less information exists on the potential of the use of cannabis in combination with immunotherapy.

Here, we explore the possibility of the use of cannabinoids for modulation of immunotherapy of colon cancer and discuss possible advantages and limitations.”


“Among new potential therapeutic approaches, treatment with cannabinoids and Cannabis sativa extracts have been shown to be efficient in inhibiting cancer growth in vitro and in vivo. It has been strongly suggested in the literature that cannabinoids and cannabis extracts can be used for the treatment of colorectal cancer. Evidence shows that cannabinoids have a high potential to be turned into promising drugs. It is obvious that these compounds can target the key signaling pathways of cancer development.”


Cannabidiol inhibits invasion and metastasis in colorectal cancer cells by reversing epithelial-mesenchymal transition through the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway


“Colorectal cancer (CRC) is the leading cause of cancer deaths worldwide, wherein distant metastasis is the main reason for death. The non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid cannabidiol (CBD) effectively induces the apoptosis of CRC cells. We investigated the role of CBD in the migration and metastasis of CRC cells.

CBD significantly inhibited proliferation, migration, and invasion of colon cancer cells in a dose- or time-dependent manner. CBD could also inhibit epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) by upregulating epithelial markers such as E-cadherin and downregulating mesenchymal markers such as N-cadherin, Snail, Vimentin, and HIF-1α. CBD could suppress the activation of the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway, inhibit the expression of β-catenin target genes such as APC and CK1, and increase the expression of Axin1. Compared to the control group, the volume and weight of orthotopic xenograft tumors significantly decreased after the CBD treatment.

The results demonstrated that CBD inhibits invasion and metastasis in CRC cells. This was the first study elucidating the underlying molecular mechanism of CBD in inhibiting EMT and metastasis via the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway in CRC cells. The molecular mechanism by which CBD inhibits EMT and metastasis of CRC cells was shown to be through the Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway for the first time.”



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

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“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.”



“Cancer Pain Treatment Using Marijuana Safe and Effective, Large Study Finds”