Researchers investigating the role of cannabis in cancer therapy reveal it has the potential to destroy leukaemia cells, in a paper published in the March 2006 edition of Letters in Drug Design & Discovery. Led by Dr Wai Man Liu, at Barts and the London, Queen Mary’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, the team has followed up on their findings of 2005 which showed that the main active ingredient in cannabis, tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, has the potential to be used effectively against some forms of cancer. Dr Liu has since moved to the Institute of Cancer in Sutton where he continues his work into investigating the potential therapeutic benefit of new anti-cancer agents.
It has previously been acknowledged that cannabis-based medicines have merit in the treatment of cancer patients as a painkiller; appetite stimulant and in reducing nausea, but recently evidence has been growing of its potential as an anti-tumour agent. The widely reported psychoactive side effects and consequent legal status of cannabis have, however, complicated its use in this capacity. Although THC and its related compounds have been shown to attack cancer cells by interfering with important growth-processing pathways, it has not hitherto been established exactly how this is achieved.