Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Cannabinoid Receptor Might Help Suppress Colorectal Cancer

According to U.S. researchers, a cannabinoid receptor lying on the surface of cells may help suppress colorectal cancer. When the receptor is turned-off, tumor growth is switched-on.

Cannabinoids are compounds, which are related to the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) found in the cannabis plant. In addition, it has already known that the receptor, CB1, plays a role in relieving pain and nausea, elevating mood and stimulating appetite by serving as a docking station for the cannabinoid group of signaling molecules.

The study suggests that CB1 may offer a new path for cancer prevention or treatment. According to Dr. Raymond Dubois, provost and executive vice president of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, said in a university news release, he and his team have found that CB1 expression is lost in most colorectal cancers. Moreover, he added, when that happens, a cancer-promoting protein is free to inhibit cell death.

In their study of human colorectal tumor specimens, the researchers also found that the drug decitabine could restore CB1 expression. For information, the researchers found that mice that are prone to developing intestinal tumors and also have functioning CB1 receptors developed fewer and smaller tumors when treated with a drug that mimics a cannabinoid receptor ligand. Ligands are molecules that function by binding to specific receptors.

According to DuBois, potential application of cannabinoids as anti-tumor drugs is an exciting prospect, because cannabinoid agonists (synthetic molecules that mimic the action of natural molecules) are being evaluated now to treat the side effects of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. He added that turning CB1 back on and than treating with a cannabinoid agonist could provide a new approach to colorectal cancer treatment or prevention.

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