Findings from a new study at Colorado State University (CSU) and the University of California, Davis indicate that cannabidiol (CBD) could be a useful treatment for difficult-to-treat brain cancer in humans and canines.
The study focuses on an aggressive and difficult-to-treat form of cancer known as glioblastoma, which forms from cells in the brain or spinal cord.
The research team says that they examined both human and canine glioblastoma cells due to the cancer’s striking similarities between the two species.
According to a study published in 2019 in Mayo Health Proceedings, 5-year survival rates for people with glioblastoma remain low and have not significantly improved over the years, even with advancements in treatment.
Chase Gross, a student of CSU’s Doctor of Veterinary Medicine/Master of Science program, says that further research and treatment options are urgently needed for brain cancer patients.
“CBD has been zealously studied in cells for its anticancer properties over the last decade,” says Gross. “Our study helps complete the in vitro puzzle, allowing us to move forward in studying CBD’s effects on glioblastoma in a clinical setting using live animal models. This could lead to new treatments that would help both people and dogs that have this very serious cancer.”
For the study, researchers tested the effects of 100 percent pure CBD isolate, and CBD extract with trace amounts of other cannabinoids and naturally-occurring compounds.
Researchers found that CBD’s toxic effects on cancer cells are facilitated through apoptosis, a type of programmed cell death.
According to researchers, the CBD-induced cancer cell death is characterized by large swollen intracellular vesicles before the membrane begins to bulge and break down.
Researchers believe that CBD’s anti-cancer properties target mitochondria, which produce energy inside cells, causing them to malfunction and release harmful reactive oxygen species.
The research team’s experiments demonstrated that cells treated with CBD showed significant decreases in mitochondrial activity.
Gross says that the team’s experiments have shown that CBD slows cancer cell growth and is toxic to both canine and human glioblastoma cell lines.
Gross also says that there were negligible differences between the effects of CBD isolate and CBD extract.
While Gross was unable to present results from the study at the annual American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics meeting in San Diego this month, which was canceled due to the COVID-19 outbreak, the research team’s abstract has been published to The FASEB Journal.
As the next step in their study, researchers plan to switch from cell cultures to animal models to test the efficacy of CBD on glioblastoma.
If the team’s animal studies are successful, their next step may be clinical trials involving dogs that are being treated for glioblastoma at the Colorado State University Veterinary Teaching Hospital.