Effectiveness of cannabidiol (CBD) on histopathological changes and gene expression in hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) model in male rats: the role of Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway

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“The third most prevalent malignancy to cause mortality is hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The Hedgehog (Hh) signaling pathway is activated by binding to the transmembrane receptor Patched-1 (PTCH-1), which depresses the transmembrane G protein-coupled receptor Smoothened (SMO).

This study was performed to examine the preventative and therapeutic effects of cannabidiol in adult rats exposed to diethyl nitrosamine (DENA)-induced HCC.

A total of 50 male rats were divided into five groups of 10 rats each. Group I was the control group. Group II received intraperitoneal (IP) injections of DENA for 14 weeks. Group III included rats that received cannabidiol (CBD) orally (3-30 mg/kg) for 2 weeks and DENA injections for 14 weeks. Group IV rats received oral CBD for 2 weeks before 14 weeks of DENA injections. Group V included rats that received CBD orally for 2 weeks after their last injection of DENA. Measurements were made for alanine aminotransferase (ALT), aspartate aminotransferase (AST), gamma glutamyl transferase (GGT), superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT), malondialdehyde (MDA), and alpha fetoprotein (AFP). Following total RNA extraction, Smo, Hhip, Ptch-1, and Gli-1 expressions were measured using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction (qRT-PCR). A histopathological analysis of liver tissues was performed.

The liver enzymes, oxidant-antioxidant state, morphological, and molecular parameters of the adult male rat model of DENA-induced HCC showed a beneficial improvement after CBD administration.

In conclusion, by focusing on the Hh signaling system, administration of CBD showed a beneficial improvement in the liver enzymes, oxidant-antioxidant status, morphological, and molecular parameters in the DENA-induced HCC in adult male rats.”



Cannabinol inhibits cell growth and triggers cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in cancer cells

Biocatalysis and Agricultural Biotechnology

“Cancer is one of the most difficult diseases to treat and cure.”

“Cannabinol (CBN), one of the active ingredients from the cannabis plant, is the breakdown molecule of Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ9-THC) which is the most abundant psychoactive cannabinoid.”

“Cannabinol (CBN) is a weak-psychoactive cannabinoid and has been shown to exert several bio-logical activities. At the same time, not much is known about the anti-cancer activities of CBN. In this report, we characterized the anti-tumor effects of CBN on the glioma A172, liver cancer HepG2 and breast cancer HCC1806 cell lines.

We found that CBN reduces the proliferation of the analyzed cancer cells and modulates the level of cannabinoid receptors, including GPR18, CB2 and GPR55. Furthermore, CBN inhibits the ERK1/2 pathway in A172 and HepG2 cells, while suppressing the AKT pathway in HCC1086 cells. Moreover, CBN may cause apoptosis through downregulation of p21 and p27 as well as a cell cycle arrest at G1 or S-phase via decreasing the CDK1, CDK2, and cyclin E1 levels.

Taken together, these results offer new insights into the anti-cancer properties of CBN.”

“CBN, one of the weak-psychoactive cannabinoids, have demonstrated various medicinal properties, including anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, analgesic and even anti-tumor.”

“In this study, we revealed the antitumor activity of CBN in three different tumor cell lines, glioma A172, liver cancer HepG2 and breast cancer HCC1806 cell lines. We report that cannabinol inhibits proliferation of several cancer cell lines by regulation of the signaling pathways involving ERK and AKT as well as by altering the expression of cannabinoid receptors. Moreover, we also found that CBN induces apoptosis and cell cycle arrest and partially uncovered underlying molecular mechanisms. Our findings provide novel information about the anti-cancer properties of CBN and justify further research to investigate the role of CBN as cancer therapeutic.”


Cannabidiol Enhances Cabozantinib-Induced Apoptotic Cell Death via Phosphorylation of p53 Regulated by ER Stress in Hepatocellular Carcinoma

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“Cannabidiol (CBD), a primary constituent in hemp and cannabis, exerts broad pharmacological effects against various diseases, including cancer. Additionally, cabozantinib, a potent multi-kinase inhibitor, has been approved for treating patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). Recently, there has been an increase in research on combination therapy using cabozantinib to improve efficacy and safety when treating patients. Here, we investigated the effect of a combination treatment of cabozantinib and CBD on HCC cells. CBD treatment enhanced the sensitivity of HCC cells to cabozantinib-mediated anti-cancer activity by increasing cytotoxicity and apoptosis. Phospho-kinase array analysis demonstrated that the apoptotic effect of the combination treatment was mainly related to p53 phosphorylation regulated by endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress when compared to other kinases. The inhibition of p53 expression and ER stress suppressed the apoptotic effect of the combination treatment, revealing no changes in the expression of Bax, Bcl-2, cleaved caspase-3, cleaved caspase-8, or cleaved caspase-9. Notably, the effect of the combination treatment was not associated with cannabinoid receptor 1 (CNR1) and the CNR2 signaling pathways. Our findings suggest that the combination therapy of cabozantinib and CBD provides therapeutic efficacy against HCC.”



Cannabis sativa demonstrates anti-hepatocellular carcinoma potentials in animal model: in silico and in vivo studies of the involvement of Akt

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“Background: Targeting protein kinase B (Akt) and its downstream signaling proteins are promising options in designing novel and potent drug candidates against hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC). The present study explores the anti-HCC potentials of Cannabis sativa (C. sativa) extract via the involvement of Akt using both in silico and in vivo animal models of HCC approaches.

Methods: Phytoconstituents of C. sativa extract obtained from Gas Chromatography Mass-spectrometry (GCSM) were docked into the catalytic domain of Akt-2. The Diethylnitrosamine (DEN) model of HCC was treated with C. sativa extract. The effects of C. sativa extract treatments on DEN model of hepatocellular carcinoma were assessed by One-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) of the treated and untreated groups RESULT: The lead phytoconstituents of C. sativa extract, Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9-THC) and cannabidiol form stable hydrophobic and hydrogen bond interactions within the catalytic domain of Akt-2. C. sativa extract (15 mg/kg and 30 mg/kg) respectively gives a 3-fold decrease in the activities of liver function enzymes when compared with the positive control (group 2). It also gives a 1.5-fold decrease in hepatic lipid peroxidation and elevates serum antioxidant enzymes’ activities by 1-fold in HCC treated Wistar rats when compared with the positive control (group 2). In an animal model of hepatocellular carcinoma, C. sativa extract significantly downregulated Akt and HIF mRNAs in groups 3, 4, and 5 with 2, 1.5, 2.5-fold decrease relative to group 2. VEGF mRNA was downregulated by 1.5-fold decrease in groups 3-5 when compared to group 2. The expression of XIAP mRNA was downregulated by 1.5, 2, and 1.25-folds in groups 3, 4, and 5 respectively, in comparison with group 2. In comparison to group 2, COX-2 mRNA levels were downregulated by 1.5, 1, and 1-folds in groups 3-5. In groups 3-5, CRP mRNA was downregulated by 2-fold in comparison with group 2. In groups 3-5, p21 mRNA was upregulated by 2, 2.5, and 3-folds, respectively when compared with group 2. It upregulated p53 mRNA by 2.5, 3.5, and 2.5-folds in groups 3-5 in comparison with group 2. It downregulated AFP mRNA by 3.5, 2.5, .2.5-folds in groups 3, 4, and 5 respectively when compared with group 2. Histologic analysis showed that C. sativa extract reduced necrosis and inflammation in HCC.

Conclusion: C. sativa demonstrates anti-hepatocellular carcinoma potentials in an animal model of HCC and with the involvement of Akt. Its anticancer potential is mediated through antiangiogenic, proapoptotic, cycle arrest, and anti-inflammatory mechanisms. In future studies, the mechanisms of anti-HCC effects of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9- THC) and cannabidiol via the PI3K-Akt signaling pathways should be explored.”


“We established that C. sativa demonstrates anti-hepatocellular carcinoma potentials in an animal model of HCC and with the involvement of Akt. THC and cannabidiol form stable hydrophobic and hydrogen bond interactions within the catalytic domain of Akt-2. C. sativa extract reduced the activities of liver function enzymes. It ameliorates lipid peroxidation and increases the antioxidant enzymes’ activities. It shows anti-angiogenic, proapoptotic, and anti-inflammatory effects. It also demonstrates cell cycle arrest. C. sativa extract further demonstrates its anti-HCC effects by moderating necrosis and reduce inflammation in HCC. In future studies, the mechanisms of anti-HCC effects of Δ-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ-9- THC) and cannabidiol via the PI3K-Akt signaling pathways should be explored. Although preclinical trials have demonstrated the clinical efficacy of C. sativa, clinical trials with cancer patients are lacking. It is imperative to review the results of prospective and randomized studies on the use of C. sativa in cancer treatment before drawing any conclusions.”


Therapeutic targeting of the tumor microenvironments with cannabinoids and their analogs: Update on clinical trials

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“Cancer is a major global public health concern that affects both industrialized and developing nations. Current cancer chemotherapeutic options are limited by side effects, but plant-derived alternatives and their derivatives offer the possibilities of enhanced treatment response and reduced side effects.

A plethora of recently published articles have focused on treatments based on cannabinoids and cannabinoid analogs and reported that they positively affect healthy cell growth and reverse cancer-related abnormalities by targeting aberrant tumor microenvironments (TMEs), lowering tumorigenesis, preventing metastasis, and/or boosting the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Furthermore, TME modulating systems are receiving much interest in the cancer immunotherapy field because it has been shown that TMEs have significant impacts on tumor progression, angiogenesis, invasion, migration, epithelial to mesenchymal transition, metastasis and development of drug resistance.

Here, we have reviewed the effective role of cannabinoids, their analogs and cannabinoid nano formulations on the cellular components of TME (endothelial cells, pericytes, fibroblast and immune cells) and how efficiently it retards the progression of carcinogenesis is discussed. The article summarizes the existing research on the molecular mechanisms of cannabinoids regulation of the TME and finally highlights the human studies on cannabinoids’ active interventional clinical trials.

The conclusion outlines the need for future research involving clinical trials of cannabinoids to demonstrate their efficacy and activity as a treatment/prevention for various types of human malignancies.”



The endocannabinoid system, a new gatekeeper in the pharmacology of human hepatocellular carcinoma

Environmental Research

“Despite numerous prevention methodologies and treatment options, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) still remains as the third leading life-threatening cancer. It is thus pertinent to develop new treatment modality to fight this devastating carcinoma.

Ample recent studies have shown the anti-inflammatory and antitumor roles of the endocannabinoid system in various forms of cancers. Preclinical studies have also confirmed that cannabinoid therapy can be an optimal regimen for cancer treatments.

The endocannabinoid system is involved in many cancer-related processes, including induction of endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress-dependent apoptosis, autophagy, PITRK and ERK signaling pathways, cell invasion, epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and cancer stem cell (CSC) phenotypes. Moreover, changes in signaling transduction of the endocannabinoid system can be a potential diagnostic and prognostic biomarker for HCC.

Due to its pivotal role in lipid metabolism, the endocannabinoid system affects metabolic reprogramming as well as lipid content of exosomes. In addition, due to the importance of non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs), several studies have examined the relationship between microRNAs and the endocannabinoid system in HCC. However, HCC is a pathological condition with high heterogeneity, and therefore using the endocannabinoid system for treatment has faced many controversies. While some studies favored a role of the endocannabinoid system in carcinogenesis and tumor induction, others exhibited the anticancer potential of endocannabinoids in HCC.

In this review, specific studies delineating the relationship between endocannabinoids and HCC are examined. Based on collected findings, detailed studies of the molecular mechanism of endocannabinoids as well as preclinical studies for investigating therapeutic or carcinogenic impacts in HCC cancer are strongly suggested.”



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

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.”



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


Cannabinol inhibits proliferation and induces cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in glioblastoma, hepatocellular carcinoma and breast cancer cells

“Cannabis sativa is an agriculturally and medicinally important plant with many pharmaceutical properties. Cancer is a deadly disease; it is estimated that it will cause over 80 thousand deaths in 2019 in Canada.

Although numerous studies have demonstrated that cannabinoids have anti-tumorous properties in various cancers, the anti-malignant activities of cannabinol (CBN) on carcinogenesis and underlying mechanisms remain largely unknown.

In this study, we provide evidence that CBN inhibits proliferation of A172, HB8065 and HCC1806 cells in a dose- and time-dependent manner. CBN regulates expression of cannabinoid receptors, CB2, GPR55 and GPR18 in different cell lines, while reducing levels of phosphorylated ERK1/2 in HCC1806 and phosphorylated AKT in A172 and HB8065 cells.

We find that CBN induces apoptosis through downregulation of p21 and p27 and a G1 or S-phase cell cycle arrest through a dose-dependent downregulation of cyclin E1, CDK1 and CDK2.

These data support the medicinal potential of CBN in anti-cancer therapy.”


Lower Rates of Hepatocellular Carcinoma Observed Among Cannabis Users: A Population-Based Study

“Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is one of the most common malignancies worldwide and the fourth leading cause of cancer deaths in the world. The association between HCC and cannabis has been identified in mice; however, to our knowledge has not been identified in humans. Therefore, we aim to investigate the relation between HCC and cannabis use in humans.

Methods: Using data from the National Inpatient Sample (NIS) database between 2002 and 2014, we identified the patients with HCC and cannabis use diagnosis using the International Classification of Disease 9th version codes (ICD-9). Then, we identified patients without cannabis use as the control group. We adjusted for multiple potential confounders and performed multivariable logistic regression analysis to determine the association between cannabis abuse and HCC.

Results: A total of 101,231,036 patients were included in the study. Out of the total, 996,290 patients (1%) had the diagnosis of cannabis abuse versus 100,234,746 patients (99%) in the control group without cannabis abuse. We noticed that patients with cannabis abuse were younger (34 vs 48 years), had more males (61.7% vs 41.4%) and more African Americans (29.9% vs 14.2%) compared with the control group (P<0.001 for all). Besides, patients with cannabis use had more hepatitis B, hepatitis C, liver cirrhosis, and smoking, but had less obesity and gallstones, (P<0.001 for all). Using multivariable logistic regression, and after adjusting for potential confounders, patients with cannabis abuse were 55% less likely to have HCC (adjusted Odds Ratio {aOR}, 0.45, 95% Confidence Interval {CI}, 0.42-0.49, P<0.001) compared with patients without cannabis abuse.

Conclusion: Based on our large database analysis, we found that cannabis use patients were 55% less likely to have HCC compared to patients without cannabis use. Further prospective studies are needed to assess the role of cannabis use on HCC.”

“Our analysis revealed that cannabis users were 55% less likely to have HCC compared to non-cannabis users.”