Study Finds Cannabinoids May Inhibit Kidney Tumors by Binding to Cancer Cells

Jessica McKeil October 10, 2019 0 comments

The anti-tumor potential of cannabinoids may give patients an edge on improving kidney cancer prognosis.

The most common type of kidney cancer is renal cell carcinoma. It accounts for a whopping eighty five percent of diagnoses. One or both kidneys can be affected and if it caught too late — or left untreated — it may spread to other areas of the body. The risk of kidney cancer is often increased by certain pain medications and cigarette smoking. However, it can also develop for unknown reasons. For this type of kidney cancer, the prognosis is actually quite good — so long as you catch it in the early stages and treat it immediately.

Treatment options for renal cell carcinoma are similar to other common cancers. The first line of defense is surgery to remove the malignant tumor, followed by radiation therapy, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy.

rso which some might use for kidney cancer

Kidney Cancer Prognosis May Improve With Cannabis

Again, the good news is that for this type of common kidney cancer, the prognosis is good so long as it’s stage one or stage two. During these early stages, the tumor (large or small) has only developed within the kidney and hasn’t spread to other areas of the body nor invaded nearby tissues.

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There are well over four hundred active clinical trials either already underway or within the recruiting stages exploring renal cell carcinoma. The level of attention on this kidney cancer is great news for patients, as it means researchers are throwing a lot of resources at the disease. They are testing new and improved treatment options all the time. Renal cell carcinoma patients can even apply to be a part of many clinical trials, should they meet the requirements.

Although not yet into the clinical stage yet, one of the newer ideas out there is cannabis as a treatment for cancer including renal cell carcinoma. Cannabis advocates have long lauded the anti-tumor potential of cannabinoids, but only now is the research at a point where we can see how it actually might work to kill cancer cells.

scientist looking at samples

Why Cannabis Might Work for Renal Cell Carcinoma

In an in vitro study, published in BMC Cancer (2018), a Polish research team made a series of pivotal discoveries about renal cell carcinoma and cannabinoids. Their research aimed to answer a series of puzzles about cannabinoids and renal cell carcinoma. They worked with human renal cell carcinoma cells in a laboratory setting along with synthetic cannabinoids. The two cannabinoids used were JWH-133 and WIN-55, which are commonly used within early research models of cannabinoids.

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Like CBD, JWH-133 works primarily with the CB2 receptor. It is slightly different, because it usually creates a direct bond with the CB2 receptor, instead of indirectly activating it. On the other hand, WIN-55 is much like THC in the way it binds to the CB1 receptors. It can have similar physical and mental effects.

Both of these synthetic cannabinoids are often used to lay the groundwork for future research. This may involve plant-based cannabinoids, like THC and CBD.

The Polish study discovered the expression of both CB1 and CB2 receptors in renal cell carcinoma. With measurably higher levels of CB2 receptors than the CB1. This was accomplished with a series of different in-vitro techniques, applying both WIN-55 and JWH-133 synthetic cannabinoids.

The authors believe there may be a substantial role for the CB2 receptor in future cancer treatments. Activation of this receptor seems capable — at least in this early investigation — of anti-proliferative (inhibit tumor growth) and cytotoxic effects (being toxic to cells). CB2 agonists, may one day be a new treatment for renal cell carcinoma.

kidney canacer graphic

Real-World Applications of Cannabis for Cancer

The study highlighted here is a very early step, but an important one. It’s far too soon to extrapolate the results from the preliminary work into a novel cannabis-based treatment for renal cell carcinoma. After all, it is in a petri dish, not a human. It also uses synthetic cannabinoids, not plant-based ones. But, all research has to start somewhere.

Truth be told, many people are already using cannabis as a co-therapy to conventional cancer treatments. Patients often find it extremely helpful in reducing the many devastating side effects of chemotherapy. Research confirms that cannabis helps with nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.

In a decade, we may be in a very different place with cannabis research. And human clinical trials may have wrapped up on cannabis for renal cell carcinoma. Kidney cancer prognosis, even in the latter stages, may be much better than it is today. We’ll have to wait and see and follow this encouraging line of study closely.

Author avatar

Jessica McKeil

Jessica McKeil is a freelance writer focused on the medical marijuana industry, from production methods to medicinal applications. She is lucky enough to live in beautiful British Columbia, Canada where the cannabis industry is exploding. When not writing, she spends much of her time exploring in the coastal forests.

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