Posted by Neharika Sabharwal on April 04, 2009

Madrid, April 3: Seems like Bob Marley wasn't kidding when he claimed marijuana can be good for you. Marijuana has anti-cancerdefine properties, which may prove beneficial in the treatment of malignant cells in the brain, claims a new study.

Researchers from Complutense University in Madrid have found that “the active component of marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol or THC, causes cancerdefine cells to undergo a process called autophagy. This is the breakdown that occurs when the cell essentially self-digests."

Co-author of the study, Guillermo Velasco, and his team explained that the introduction of THC in the brain appears "to kill cancer cells, while it does not affect normal cells."

The research was primarily done on mice. The scientists introduced cancer into the mice and then gave them THC daily. Two patients with highly aggressive brain tumors were also examined in an experimental trial. Both patients had been enrolled in a clinical trial designed to test THC's potential as a cancer therapy. The scientists administered THC treatment on the skull.

They then analyzed the brain tissue using electron microscopes both before and after a 26- to 30-day THC treatment trial.

The researchers found that THC eliminated cancer cells while it left healthy cells intact, giving a clear indication of the curative value of marijuana. The team also made another discovery when they tracked the signaling route by which this process was activated.

"We found that the anti-tumoral action of THC is based on its ability to activate an intracellular signalling pathway that promotes the activation of a cellular process called 'autophagy'. The activation of this pathway leads to cancer cell death," revealed Guillermo Velasco.

The researchers declared that the work shows how "a new family of potential antitumoral agent" exists among THC and is related to cannabinoids.

Velasco stated that the "The potential use of cannabinoid (marijuana) based medicines in now being investigated.”

Cannabis-based medicine is comparatively cheaper as opposed to other anti-cancer drugs found in the market. However, the scientists feel more intense study is needed before the commercial prospects of marijuana as an anti-cancer medicine are ascertained.

"It is difficult to predict whether that (marijuana-based medicines) could have a real impact in the cost of cancer therapies as the future of these treatments is based in combining different agents," added Velasco.

Dr. John S. Yu, co-director of the Comprehensive Brain Tumor Program in the Maxine Dunitz Neurosurgical Institute at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, commented, "So this is yet another indication that THC has an anti-cancer effect, which means it's certainly worth further study.

“But it does not suggest that one should jump at marijuana for a potential cure for cancer, and one should not urge anyone to start smoking pot right away as a means of curing their own cancer."

The research appears in the April edition of US-published Journal of Clinical Investigation.

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