HomeNewsCannabis Extract A Melanoma Cell Terminator?

Cannabis Extract A Melanoma Cell Terminator?

An Australian study has found a cannabis extract called PHEC-66 has shown promise in slowing down melanoma cell growth and increasing cell death rates.

Melanoma is a type of skin cancer that usually occurs on the parts of the body that have been overexposed to the sun. Left untreated, melanomas can spread to other parts of the body and be fatal.

According to the Australian Government’s Cancer Australia website, an estimated 18,257 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in that country last year, making up 11% of all new cancer cases diagnosed in 2023 and potentially placing it as (again) the third most commonly diagnosed cancer in Australia for the period.

Survival rates have improved in recent years thanks to more and better treatments, but 1,314 Australians died from melanoma in 2023. While prevention – in this case covering up – is better than cure,  the search goes on for better treatments.

Part of that search was a study by researchers from Charles Darwin University (CDU) and RMIT, who investigated programmed cell death caused by a cannabis extract called PHEC-66. While it’s not clear from the study report exactly what is in the extract, a reference to PHEC-66 in another study published last year indicates it contains 60% cannabidiol (CBD).

The most recent study found that the extract binds to receptor sites on particular melanoma cells, controlling their growth and increasing damage to the cells – basically manipulating a cell into programmed cell death; known as apoptosis.

“This is a growing area of important research because we need to understand cannabis extracts as much as possible, especially their potential to function as anticancer agents,” said study lead  Dr Ava Bachari. “If we know how they react to cancer cells, particularly in the cause of cell death, we can refine treatment techniques to be more specific, responsive and effective”.

The study was carried out under “in vitro” conditions – which is Latin for “in glass” – meaning it occurred outside a living organism. There’s much more research to do said lead author and RMIT biotechnologist Professor Nitin Mantri.

“The subsequent stage involves animal studies or pre-clinical trials to validate and further explore the efficacy of cannabinoid PHEC-66 in treating melanoma and other cancers.”

Advanced delivery systems also need to be fully developed for a pre-clinical trial.

The study has been published in the journal Cells.

Steven Gothrinet
Steven Gothrinet has been part of the Hemp Gazette in-house reporting team since 2015. Steven's broad interest in cannabis was initially fueled by the realisation of industrial hemp's versatility across multiple sectors. You can contact Steve here.

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