Role of Cannabinoids in Oral Cancer

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“Cannabinoids have incited scientific interest in different conditions, including malignancy, due to increased exposure to cannabis. Furthermore, cannabinoids are increasingly used to alleviate cancer-related symptoms. This review paper aims to clarify the recent findings on the relationship between cannabinoids and oral cancer, focusing on the molecular mechanisms that could link cannabinoids with oral cancer pathogenesis. In addition, we provide an overview of the current and future perspectives on the management of oral cancer patients using cannabinoid compounds.

Epidemiological data on cannabis use and oral cancer development are conflicting. However, in vitro studies assessing the effects of cannabinoids on oral cancer cells have unveiled promising anti-cancer features, including apoptosis and inhibition of cell proliferation. Downregulation of various signaling pathways with anti-cancer effects has been identified in experimental models of oral cancer cells exposed to cannabinoids. Furthermore, in some countries, several synthetic or phytocannabinoids have been approved as medical adjuvants for the management of cancer patients undergoing chemoradiotherapy.

Cannabinoids may improve overall well-being by relieving anxiety, depression, pain, and nausea. In conclusion, the link between cannabinoid compounds and oral cancer is complex, and further research is necessary to elucidate the potential risks or their protective impact on oral cancer.”

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.”

Real-Time Monitoring of the Cytotoxic and Antimetastatic Properties of Cannabidiol in Human Oral Squamous Cell Carcinoma Cells Using Electric Cell-Substrate Impedance Sensing


“Cannabidiol (CBD) is an active natural compound that is extracted from Cannabis sativa. Previous studies show that CBD is a nonpsychotropic compound with significant anticancer effects.

This study determines its cytotoxic effect on oral cancer cells and OEC-M1 cells and compares the outcomes with a chemotherapeutic drug, cisplatin. This study has investigated the effect of CBD on the viability, apoptosis, morphology, and migration of OEC-M1 cells. Electric cell-substrate impedance sensing (ECIS) is used to measure the change in cell impedance for cells that are treated with a series concentration of CBD for 24 h.

AlamarBlue and annexin V/7-AAD staining assays show that CBD has a cytotoxic effect on cell viability and induces cell apoptosis. ECIS analysis shows that CBD decreases the overall resistance and morphological parameters at 4 kHz in a concentration-dependent manner. There is a significant reduction in the wound-healing recovery rate for cells that are treated with 30 μM CBD.

This study demonstrates that ECIS can be used for in vitro screening of new chemotherapy and is more sensitive, functional, and comprehensive than traditional biochemical assays. CBD also increases cytotoxicity on cell survival and the migration of oral cancer cells, so it may be a therapeutic drug for oral cancer.”

“In conclusion, this study determines the effect of CBD on OEC-M1 cells. The cytotoxicity results show that CBD at higher concentrations (100 μM) increases cytotoxicity and is more likely to lead to the apoptosis of cancer cells more than cisplatin at the same concentration. ECIS is used to determine the effect of the drug on the adhesion, spread, and migration of cells.

The results show that there is a linear, concentration-dependent decrease in OEC-M1 cells that are treated with CBD. Treatment with CBD at low concentrations (30 μM) completely inhibits cell migration and micromotion without affecting cell viability and apoptosis.

In comparison with cisplatin, this study shows that CBD has a greater ability to inhibit metastasis and trigger apoptosis. It might work successfully as a treatment for oral cancer.

We can also screen drugs more efficiently and rapidly by using the Var32 analysis method in combination with ECIS. ECIS provides a more precise measurement of experimental data and prevents operator errors by its real-time monitoring. It is promising for possible uses in new drug screening, and it might promote the development of oral cancer treatments and other medical applications.”

Oxidative Stress and Autophagy Mediate Anti-Cancer Properties of Cannabis Derivatives in Human Oral Cancer Cells


“Cannabinoids, the active components of cannabis exert palliative effects in cancer patients by preventing nausea, vomiting and pain as well as by stimulating appetite.

Recent studies indicated that cannabinoids could be helpful in treating certain rare forms of cancer and other inflammatory diseases.

The objective of this study was to investigate the cytotoxic effect of a cannabinoid mixture (CM) in oral cells. Thus, normal and cancer gingival cells were treated with different concentrations of CM to evaluate their proliferation by MTT assay, cytotoxicity by using LDH assay, colony formation with crystal violet and migration by the scratch method. In addition, apoptosis, autophagy, oxidative stress, antioxidant level, DNA damage and the mitochondrial membrane potential (ΔΨm) generated by proton pumps were measured by flow cytometry. Furthermore, deactivation of the key signaling pathways involved in cancer progression such as NF-κB, ERK1/2, p38, STAT1, STAT3, STAT5 was also evaluated by this technique.

These outcomes indicate that CM, at a concentration higher than 0.1 µg/mL, provokes high cytotoxicity in Ca9-22 oral cancer cells but not in GMSM-K gingival normal cells. Apoptosis, autophagy, antioxidant levels and mitochondrial stress as well as DNA damage in oral cells were increased following exposure to low concentration (1 µg/mL). In addition, major signaling pathways that are involved such as MAPKase, STATs and NF-κB pathways were inhibited by CM as well as cell migration.

Our results suggest that cannabinoids could potentially have a beneficial effect on oral cancer therapy.”

“The therapeutic efficacy of cannabis is very limited and still needs to be confirmed or refuted. However, our recent work has shown that at low doses, cannabinoids (Δ9-THC and Δ8-THC), which are the main constituents of cannabis, are beneficial against oral cancer. In this current study, we showed that a mixture of cannabinoids (CM) can induce oral toxicity in cells by damaging the DNA and activating the mechanisms of autophagy and apoptosis along with inhibiting many cancer progression pathways such as MAPKase, STATs and NF-κB pathways. These data demonstrated clearly the potential beneficial effect of CM at low concentrations for oral cancer therapy.”

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

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“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.”

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”

The Endocannabinoid System as a Pharmacological Target for New Cancer Therapies

“Despite the long history of cannabinoid use for medicinal and ritual purposes, an endogenous system of cannabinoid-controlled receptors, as well as their ligands and the enzymes that synthesise and degrade them, was only discovered in the 1990s. Since then, the endocannabinoid system has attracted widespread scientific interest regarding new pharmacological targets in cancer treatment among other reasons.

Meanwhile, extensive preclinical studies have shown that cannabinoids have an inhibitory effect on tumour cell proliferation, tumour invasion, metastasis, angiogenesis, chemoresistance and epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and induce tumour cell apoptosis and autophagy as well as immune response. Appropriate cannabinoid compounds could moreover be useful for cancer patients as potential combination partners with other chemotherapeutic agents to increase their efficacy while reducing unwanted side effects.

In addition to the direct activation of cannabinoid receptors through the exogenous application of corresponding agonists, another strategy is to activate these receptors by increasing the endocannabinoid levels at the corresponding pathological hotspots. Indeed, a number of studies accordingly showed an inhibitory effect of blockers of the endocannabinoid-degrading enzymes fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH) and monoacylglycerol lipase (MAGL) on tumour development and spread.

This review summarises the relevant preclinical studies with FAAH and MAGL inhibitors compared to studies with cannabinoids and provides an overview of the regulation of the endocannabinoid system in cancer.”

“Cannabinoids have been shown to suppress tumour cell proliferation, tumour invasion, metastasis, angiogenesis, chemoresistance and epithelial-mesenchymal transition and to induce tumour cell apoptosis, autophagy and immune response. This review focuses on the current status of investigations on the impact of inhibitors of endocannabinoid-degrading enzymes on tumour growth and spread in preclinical oncology research.”

Plant-derived cannabinoids as anticancer agents

“Substantial preclinical evidence demonstrates the antiproliferative, cytotoxic, and antimetastatic properties of plant-derived cannabinoids (phytocannabinoids) such as cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol. The cumulative body of research into the intracellular mechanisms and phenotypic effects of these compounds supports a logical, judicious progression to large-scale phase II/III clinical trials in certain cancer types to truly assess the efficacy of phytocannabinoids as anticancer agents.”

Cannabinoids as anticancer drugs: current status of preclinical research

“Drugs that target the endocannabinoid system are of interest as pharmacological options to combat cancer and to improve the life quality of cancer patients. From this perspective, cannabinoid compounds have been successfully tested as a systemic therapeutic option in a number of preclinical models over the past decades. As a result of these efforts, a large body of data suggests that the anticancer effects of cannabinoids are exerted at multiple levels of tumour progression via different signal transduction mechanisms. Accordingly, there is considerable evidence for cannabinoid-mediated inhibition of tumour cell proliferation, tumour invasion and metastasis, angiogenesis and chemoresistance, as well as induction of apoptosis and autophagy. Further studies showed that cannabinoids could be potential combination partners for established chemotherapeutic agents or other therapeutic interventions in cancer treatment. Research in recent years has yielded several compounds that exert promising effects on tumour cells and tissues in addition to the psychoactive Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, such as the non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid cannabidiol and inhibitors of endocannabinoid degradation. This review provides an up-to-date overview of the potential of cannabinoids as inhibitors of tumour growth and spread as demonstrated in preclinical studies.”

Cannabidiol and Other Phytocannabinoids as Cancer Therapeutics

“Preclinical models provided ample evidence that cannabinoids are cytotoxic against cancer cells. Among the best studied phytocannabinoids, cannabidiol (CBD) is most promising for the treatment of cancer as it lacks the psychotomimetic properties of delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). In vitro studies and animal experiments point to a concentration- (dose-)dependent anticancer effect. The effectiveness of pure compounds versus extracts is the subject of an ongoing debate. Actual results demonstrate that CBD-rich hemp extracts must be distinguished from THC-rich cannabis preparations. Whereas pure CBD was superior to CBD-rich extracts in most in vitro experiments, the opposite was observed for pure THC and THC-rich extracts, although exceptions were noted. The cytotoxic effects of CBD, THC and extracts seem to depend not only on the nature of cannabinoids and the presence of other phytochemicals but also largely on the nature of cell lines and test conditions. Neither CBD nor THC are universally efficacious in reducing cancer cell viability. The combination of pure cannabinoids may have advantages over single agents, although the optimal ratio seems to depend on the nature of cancer cells; the existence of a ‘one size fits all’ ratio is very unlikely. As cannabinoids interfere with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), a better understanding of the circadian rhythmicity of the ECS, particularly endocannabinoids and receptors, as well as of the rhythmicity of biological processes related to the growth of cancer cells, could enhance the efficacy of a therapy with cannabinoids by optimization of the timing of the administration, as has already been reported for some of the canonical chemotherapeutics. Theoretically, a CBD dose administered at noon could increase the peak of anandamide and therefore the effects triggered by this agent. Despite the abundance of preclinical articles published over the last 2 decades, well-designed controlled clinical trials on CBD in cancer are still missing. The number of observations in cancer patients, paired with the anticancer activity repeatedly reported in preclinical in vitro and in vivo studies warrants serious scientific exploration moving forward.”