Medical marijuana research takes a few surprising
Karl B. Hille, The Examiner. July 18, 2006
Research being conducted around the globe hints at
the potential for marijuana to treat cancer, as well
as lead to pre-cancerous conditions.
A Spanish paper published in
the journal Nature Reviews-Cancer explored the
potential for the active ingredient in marijuana to
inhibit cancer growth, while Johns Hopkins
researchers are studying compounds that might render
the drug ineffective for those seeking its high.
“Further basic research and
more exhaustive clinical trials are still required
before cannabinoids can be routinely used in cancer
therapy,” wrote Manuel Guzman in his research paper
“Cannabinoids: Potential anticancer agents.”
A biochemist with the
Complutense University in Madrid, Guzman
identified the process by which cannabinoids,
found in many forms in marijuana, can inhibit cell
growth and trigger cell death — processes that can
get out of control in cancerous cells. One
specific compound, delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol,
has been proven a valuable compound in fighting
nausea and vomiting, stimulating appetite and
controlling pain, he writes.
Don’t look for the
federal government to approve marijuana cigarettes
any time in the foreseeable future, said Dr.
Richard Wahl, a researcher with Johns Hopkins in
Baltimore. “There are all kinds of compounds in
smoke. For medical purposes, you want to be able
to isolate the compounds that have the desired
effect,” he said.
marijuana smoke has been known to create
conditions that lead to lung cancer, though
scientists have not positively linked the drug to
cancer, according to The Archives of Internal
Wahl and his
colleagues have mapped parts of the brain that
respond to cannabinoids by tailoring compounds
with radioactive tags for injection, then reading
them through positive electron tomography — PET
scans. Through their research, scientists now know
these compounds predominantly affect parts of the
brain that influence pleasure, memory, thought,
concentration, sensory and time perception, and
Some types of
cancer, including breast cancer, also have
cannabinoid receptors on their surfaces, he said.
“There are also
other compounds that bind to these receptors,”
They are looking
for a National Institutes of Health grant to
identify drugs that can block those receptors,
rendering the marijuana ineffective.