Phytocannabinoids in the Treatment of Melanoma
An in-vitro and in-vivo study published in the Journal of Investigative Dermatology in February 2015 found that treatment with delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD) helped to decrease the viability of melanoma cells.
Cells perform autophagy, a process designed to clean out intracellular debris (e.g. old cell parts [organelles], proteins that are no longer needed, etc.) with the help of lysosomes(organelles that contain enzymes that help to break down proteins, fats, sugars, DNA and RNA building blocks, etc.). Previously collected evidence has shown that in the first phases of cancer development, autophagy is useful in helping to prevent cancerous growth. However, in later stages, autophagy may actually contribute to the formation of cancer by providing resources to cancer cells that help in maintaining survival. In this study, researchers explored whether or not cannabinoids could induce apoptosis (i.e. programmed cell death), and what role autophagy played in this induction, in melanoma cells.
What is Melanoma?
Melanoma is a type of skin cancer, caused by an overproliferation of abnormal melanocytes (cells of the skin that produce melanin, a skin pigment), and is often the result of damage caused by the sun’s UV rays. Although cell abnormality begins in the skin, in later, more advanced stages, cancerous cells can metastasize (i.e. invade distant organs), causing extensive damage and, if uncontrolled, death.