Targeting cannabinoid receptors in gastrointestinal cancers for therapeutic uses: current status and future perspectives

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“A number of studies have consistently shown that cannabinoids are able to prevent or reduce carcinogenesis in different animal models of colon cancer.

Cannabinoids, via CB1 and possibly CB2 receptors, suppress proliferation and migration and stimulate apoptosis in colorectal cancer cells.

Convincing scientific evidence suggests that cannabinoids, in addition to their well-known use in palliative care in oncology (e.g. improvement of appetite, attenuation of nausea associated to antitumoral medicines, alleviation of moderate neuropathic pain) can reduce, via antiproliferative and proapoptotic as well as by inhibiting angiogenesis, invasion and metastasis or by attenuating inflammation, the growth of cancer cells and hinder the development of experimental colon carcinogenesis in vivo.”

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17474124.2017.1367663?src=recsys

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INSIGHT ON THE IMPACT OF ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM IN CANCER: A REVIEW.

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“In the last decades, the endocannabinoid system has attracted a great interest in medicine and cancer disease is probably one of its most promising therapeutic areas.

On the one hand, endocannabinoid system expression has been found altered in numerous types of tumours compared to healthy tissue, and this aberrant expression has been related to cancer prognosis and disease outcome, suggesting a role of this system in tumour growth and progression that depends on cancer type.

On the other hand, it has been reported that cannabinoids exert an anticancer activity by inhibiting the proliferation, migration and/or invasion of cancer cells; and also tumour angiogenesis.

The endocannabinoid system may be considered as a new therapeutic target, although further studies to fully establish the effect of cannabinoids on tumour progression remain necessary.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29663308

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Endocannabinoid-related compounds in gastrointestinal diseases.

Journal of Cellular and Molecular Medicine

“The endocannabinoid system (ECS) is an endogenous signalling pathway involved in the control of several gastrointestinal (GI) functions at both peripheral and central levels. In recent years, it has become apparent that the ECS is pivotal in the regulation of GI motility, secretion and sensitivity, but endocannabinoids (ECs) are also involved in the regulation of intestinal inflammation and mucosal barrier permeability, suggesting their role in the pathophysiology of both functional and organic GI disorders. Genetic studies in patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or inflammatory bowel disease have indeed shown significant associations with polymorphisms or mutation in genes encoding for cannabinoid receptor or enzyme responsible for their catabolism, respectively. Furthermore, ongoing clinical trials are testing EC agonists/antagonists in the achievement of symptomatic relief from a number of GI symptoms. Despite this evidence, there is a lack of supportive RCTs and relevant data in human beings, and hence, the possible therapeutic application of these compounds is raising ethical, political and economic concerns. More recently, the identification of several EC-like compounds able to modulate ECS function without the typical central side effects of cannabino-mimetics has paved the way for emerging peripherally acting drugs. This review summarizes the possible mechanisms linking the ECS to GI disorders and describes the most recent advances in the manipulation of the ECS in the treatment of GI diseases.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28990365

http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jcmm.13359/abstract

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A Review of the Therapeutic Antitumor Potential of Cannabinoids.

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“The aim of this review is to discuss cannabinoids from a preclinical and clinical oncological perspective and provide the audience with a concise, retrospective overview of the most significant findings concerning the potential use of cannabinoids in cancer treatment.

RESULTS:

Cannabis sativa is a plant rich in more than 100 types of cannabinoids. Besides exogenous plant cannabinoids, mammalian endocannabinoids and synthetic cannabinoid analogues have been identified. Cannabinoid receptors type 1 (CB1) and type 2 (CB2) have been isolated and characterized from mammalian cells. Through cannabinoid receptor and non-receptor signaling pathways, cannabinoids show specific cytotoxicity against tumor cells, while protecting healthy tissue from apoptosis. The dual antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects of cannabinoids and associated signaling pathways have been investigated on a large panel of cancer cell lines. Cannabinoids also display potent anticancer activity against tumor xenografts, including tumors that express high resistance to standard chemotherapeutics. Few studies have investigated the possible synergistic effects of cannabinoids with standard oncology therapies, and are based on the preclinically confirmed concept of “cannabinoid sensitizers.” Also, clinical trials aimed to confirm the antineoplastic activity of cannabinoids have only been evaluated on a small number of subjects, with no consensus conclusions regarding their effectiveness.

CONCLUSIONS:

A large number of cannabinoid compounds have been discovered, developed, and used to study the effects of cannabinoids on cancers in model systems. However, few clinical trials have been conducted on the use of cannabinoids in the treatment of cancers in humans. Further studies require extensive monitoring of the effects of cannabinoids alone or in combination with standard anticancer strategies. With such knowledge, cannabinoids could become a therapy of choice in contemporary oncology.”

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Cannabinoids as Modulators of Cell Death: Clinical Applications and Future Directions.

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“Endocannabinoids are bioactive lipids that modulate various physiological processes through G-protein-coupled receptors (CB1 and CB2) and other putative targets. By sharing the activation of the same receptors, some phytocannabinoids and a multitude of synthetic cannabinoids mimic the effects of endocannabinoids.

In recent years, a growing interest has been dedicated to the study of cannabinoids properties for their analgesic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and neuroprotective effects. In addition to these well-recognized effects, various studies suggest that cannabinoids may affect cell survival, cell proliferation or cell death. These observations indicate that cannabinoids may play an important role in the regulation of cellular homeostasis and, thus, may contribute to tissue remodelling and cancer treatment.

For a long time, the study of cannabinoid receptor signalling has been focused on the classical adenylyl cyclase/cyclic AMP/protein kinase A (PKA) pathway. However, this pathway does not totally explain the wide array of biological responses to cannabinoids. In addition, the diversity of receptors and signalling pathways that endocannabinoids modulate offers an interesting opportunity for the development of specific molecules to disturb selectively the endogenous system.

Moreover, emerging evidences suggest that cannabinoids ability to limit cell proliferation and to induce tumour-selective cell death may offer a novel strategy in cancer treatment.

This review describes the main properties of cannabinoids in cell death and attempts to clarify the different pathways triggered by these compounds that may help to understand the complexity of respective molecular mechanisms and explore the potential clinical benefit of cannabinoids use in cancer therapies.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28425013

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Cannabinoid Receptors in Regulating the GI Tract: Experimental Evidence and Therapeutic Relevance.

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“Cannabinoid receptors are fundamentally involved in all aspects of intestinal physiology, such as motility, secretion, and epithelial barrier function. They are part of a broader entity, the so-called endocannabinoid system which also includes their endocannabinoid ligands and the ligands’ synthesizing/degrading enzymes.

The system has a strong impact on the pathophysiology of the gastrointestinal tract and is believed to maintain homeostasis in the gut by controlling hypercontractility and by promoting regeneration after injury.

For instance, genetic knockout of cannabinoid receptor 1 leads to inflammation and cancer of the intestines. Derivatives of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, such as nabilone and dronabinol, activate cannabinoid receptors and have been introduced into the clinic to treat chemotherapy-induced emesis and loss of appetite; however, they may cause many psychotropic side effects.

New drugs that interfere with endocannabinoid degradation to raise endocannabinoid levels circumvent this obstacle and could be used in the future to treat emesis, intestinal inflammation, and functional disorders associated with visceral hyperalgesia.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28161834

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WIN 55,212-2 Inhibits the Epithelial Mesenchymal Transition of Gastric Cancer Cells via COX-2 Signals.

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“Cannabinoids (the active components of Cannabis sativa) and their derivatives have received considerable interest due to reports that they can affect the tumor growth, migration, and metastasis.

Previous studies showed that the cannabinoid agonist WIN 55,212-2 (WIN) was associated with gastric cancer (GC) metastasis, but the mechanisms were unknown.

RESULTS:

WIN inhibited cell migration, invasion, and epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) in GC. WIN treatment resulted in the downregulation of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression and decreased the phosphorylation of AKT, and inhibited EMT in SGC7901 cells. Decreased expression of COX-2 and vimentin, and increased expression of E-cadherin, which was induced by WIN, were normalized by overexpression of AKT, suggesting that AKT mediated, at least partially, the WIN suppressed EMT of GC cells.

CONCLUSION:

WIN can inhibit the EMT of GC cells through the downregulation of COX-2.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27802436

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May cannabinoids prevent the development of chemotherapy-induced diarrhea and intestinal mucositis? Experimental study in the rat.

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“The antineoplastic drug 5-fluoruracil (5-FU) is a pirimidine analog, which frequently induces potentially fatal diarrhea and mucositis.

Cannabinoids reduce gastrointestinal motility and secretion and might prevent 5-FU-induced gut adverse effects.

Here, we asked whether cannabinoids may prevent diarrhea and mucositis induced by 5-FU in the rat.

CONCLUSIONS AND INFERENCES:

5-FU-induced diarrhea, but not mucositis, was partly prevented by WIN at a low dose.

Cannabinoids might be useful to prevent chemotherapy-induced diarrhea.”

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27686064

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Comparing the effects of endogenous and synthetic cannabinoid receptor agonists on survival of gastric cancer cells.

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“Anti-neoplastic activity induced by cannabinoids has been extensively documented for a number of cancer cell types; however, this topic has been explored in gastric cancer cells only in a limited number of approaches.

SIGNIFICANCE:

Through a comparative approach, our results support and confirm the therapeutic potential that cannabinoid receptor agonists exert in gastric cancer cells and open possibilities to use cannabinoids as part of a new gastric cancer therapy.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27640887

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ENDOCANNABINOID SYSTEM: A multi-facet therapeutic target.

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“Cannabis sativa is also popularly known as marijuana. It is being cultivated and used by man for recreational and medicinal purposes from many centuries.

Study of cannabinoids was at bay for very long time and its therapeutic value could not be adequately harnessed due to its legal status as proscribed drug in most of the countries.

The research of drugs acting on endocannabinoid system has seen many ups and down in recent past. Presently, it is known that endocannabinoids has role in pathology of many disorders and they also serve “protective role” in many medical conditions.

Several diseases like emesis, pain, inflammation, multiple sclerosis, anorexia, epilepsy, glaucoma, schizophrenia, cardiovascular disorders, cancer, obesity, metabolic syndrome related diseases, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and Tourette’s syndrome could possibly be treated by drugs modulating endocannabinoid system.

Presently, cannabinoid receptor agonists like nabilone and dronabinol are used for reducing the chemotherapy induced vomiting. Sativex (cannabidiol and THC combination) is approved in the UK, Spain and New Zealand to treat spasticity due to multiple sclerosis. In US it is under investigation for cancer pain, another drug Epidiolex (cannabidiol) is also under investigation in US for childhood seizures. Rimonabant, CB1 receptor antagonist appeared as a promising anti-obesity drug during clinical trials but it also exhibited remarkable psychiatric side effect profile. Due to which the US Food and Drug Administration did not approve Rimonabant in US. It sale was also suspended across the EU in 2008.

Recent discontinuation of clinical trial related to FAAH inhibitor due to occurrence of serious adverse events in the participating subjects could be discouraging for the research fraternity. Despite of some mishaps in clinical trials related to drugs acting on endocannabinoid system, still lot of research is being carried out to explore and establish the therapeutic targets for both cannabinoid receptor agonists and antagonists.

One challenge is to develop drugs that target only cannabinoid receptors in a particular tissue and another is to invent drugs that acts selectively on cannabinoid receptors located outside the blood brain barrier. Besides this, development of the suitable dosage forms with maximum efficacy and minimum adverse effects is also warranted.

Another angle to be introspected for therapeutic abilities of this group of drugs is non-CB1 and non-CB2 receptor targets for cannabinoids.

In order to successfully exploit the therapeutic potential of endocannabinoid system, it is imperative to further characterize the endocannabinoid system in terms of identification of the exact cellular location of cannabinoid receptors and their role as “protective” and “disease inducing substance”, time-dependent changes in the expression of cannabinoid receptors.”

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27086601

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