Scientists have discovered how marijuana can be used to help treat cancer, specifically by slowing tumor growth.
But it isn’t the marijuana itself — it’s only one ingredient in the drug. This ingredient, Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), has been reported to help slow the growth of cancer cells, according to The Independent.
The research done by the University of East Anglia team “has shed light on the still ‘poorly understood’ theory” that THC has “anti-cancer properties.” But Cancer Research UK said that it can’t really know if THC can help combat cancer cells until more research is done.
According to the report, this study, which was published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry, “could be a big boost for attempts to create a synthetic substitute for cannabis that can fight cancer in a targeted and safe way.”
In the study, scientist injected THC into mice who had human cancer cells. For the first time, they were then able to determine “two specific receptors that are responsible for the compound’s disease-fighting effects.”
Peter McCormick from UEA’s school of pharmacy said that the results of the study help them understand how THC, both at low and high doses, affected cancer tumor growth. The effects of THC, he said, are “well-known but still poorly understood.”
“By identifying the receptors involved we have provided an important step towards the future development of therapeutics that can take advantage of the interactions we have discovered to reduce tumour growth,” McCormick said.
But he also said that cancer patients shouldn’t just go smoke marijuana to try to cure themselves.
“Our research uses an isolated chemical compound and using the correct concentration is vital,” McCormick said. “Cancer patients should not use cannabis to self-medicate, but I hope that our research will lead to a safe synthetic equivalent being available in the future.”