A recent study conducted at the University of Athens Pharmacy Department has revealed the potential of lab-modified cannabis in reducing cancer cells and mitigating side effects associated with chemotherapy. The research focused on cannabinoid acids found in the cannabis plant, which demonstrated a significant reduction in breast, liver, and skin cancer cells after undergoing specific modifications in the lab.
The study, presented by Prokopios Magiatis, an associate professor at the university's Laboratory of Pharmacognosy and Natural Products Chemistry, took place during the 9th Panhellenic Conference of Applied Sciences. The aim was to investigate the anti-cancer activity of these modified cannabinoid acids, with a potential application in the production of anti-cancer medications in the future.
The research team was involved in modifying cannabinoid acids to create original chemical compounds. These compounds exhibited enhanced penetration into cell membranes and fatty tissues and improved stability inside and outside the body, suggesting more promising pharmacological effects. Notably, cannabigerol acid butyl ester (CBG) showcased the most promising results against breast cancer cells. It was found to be non-toxic and non-psychoactive in animal experiments, even at high doses. An international patent in collaboration with the University of Athens and the company Ekati Alchemy Lab, SL protects these specific substances.
Magiatis highlighted the ongoing pharmacological evaluation of these substances in collaboration with Dr Charalambias Boletis and the research team at the Hellenic Pasteur Institute. He also mentioned negotiations with major pharmaceutical companies to further explore their use. The research team includes Prokopis Magiatis, Evangelos Dadiotis, Eleni Melliou, Vangelis Mitsis, Aikaterini Papakonstantinou, and Charalambia Boleti.
The study findings contribute to the growing body of research on cannabis components, particularly non-psychotropic components, with over 500 clinical studies underway. Furthermore, the research team is investigating new synthetic components with improved properties.
In terms of medical treatments, Greek patients currently have access to two preparations containing medicinal cannabis: epidyolex, which contains only cannabidiol, and Sativex, which combines tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Both are approved by the European Medicines Agency and the Greek Medicines Authority (EOF) and require a special import procedure since they are unavailable for sale in Greece. Epidyolex is a complementary treatment for epileptic seizures, while Sativex is administered to treat spasticity and neuropathic pain.
According to Magiatis, recent legislative regulations indicate that final medicinal cannabis products containing tetrahydrocannabinol will be available in pharmacies but strictly through medical prescriptions. These products are intended for specific indications, including preventing and treating severe nausea or vomiting caused by chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and combination therapy against HIV or hepatitis C. They may also be used to treat chronic pain associated with cancer or diseases of the central or peripheral nervous system, spasticity linked to multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injuries, and as an appetite booster in palliative care for patients undergoing cancer or AIDS treatments.
Magiatis emphasized that the prescription of medicinal cannabis should only be considered when other treatment options have been exhausted, are not well tolerated, or are contraindicated for the patient. However, it is important to note that there are potential side effects, such as relaxation, hypoactivity, drowsiness, tachycardia, dry mouth, reduction of intraocular pressure, withdrawal syndrome, euphoria, and neglect of important daily activities.
The promising findings of this study shed light on the potential of lab-modified cannabis in combating cancer cells while addressing the side effects associated with traditional chemotherapy.