Cannabis containing higher levels of CBD has been shown to be more effective at killing cancer cells than THC, indicating it could be used as a potential treatment.
Researchers at the University of Newcastle and Hunter Medical Research Institute in Australia have found that a modified form of medicinal cannabis can kill cancer cells without impacting normal cells in the body.
The findings follow three years of investigations, revealing the plant’s potential as a treatment for cancer, rather than just for symptom management.
Researchers ran a comparison of THC-containing cannabis and cannabis lacking THC but with elevated levels of CBD.
They found that for both leukaemia and paediatric brainstem glioma, the CBD-enriched variety was more effective at killing cancer cells than THC varieties.
The tests were led by cancer researcher, Dr Matt Dun in collaboration with biotech company, Australian Natural Therapeutics Group (ANTG).
The company produces a cannabis plant known as ‘Eve’ which contains low levels of THC and high levels of the compound cannabidiol (CBD).
“THC varieties have been effective when it comes to pain related cancer treatments, but we looked at a different approach,” Matt Cantelo, CEO of ANTG told Cannabis Health.
“Dr Dun was quite sceptical at first but I’m happy to say three years later his findings really surprised him.
“We found in the lab that with certain chemotherapies that tend to kill human cells as well, when you combine Eve with the chemotherapy treatment the human cells stayed intact while all the cancer cells were killed.”
He continued: “We’re not saying it’s the silver bullet and it’s not going to cure everybody’s cancer but Dr Gun believes, as we do, that it could be used very well as a complementary medicine in regards to cancer.”
Dr Dun and his team also carried out a literature review of over 150 academic papers that investigated the health benefits, side-effects, and possible anticancer benefits of both CBD and THC.
He concluded that the CBD varieties have ‘greater efficacy, low toxicity and fewer side-effects’ than THC.
According to Dr Dun this could make Eve an ideal complementary therapy, with doctors reluctant to prescribe THC due to its psychoactive side-effects.
Mr Cantelo said: “Patients can’t drive when they’re taking THC and if we’re going to be providing this sort of medicine to infants and children we need to try to avoid that psychoactive component.”
The next stage of the research will now involve animal studies before moving onto clinical trials next year.
“Moving forward we do believe that there’s some scope for clinical studies to prove effective,” he added.
“Cancer treatment is a lofty goal but with the results we’re having in the lab we’d be silly not to pursue that.”
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