A recent study conducted by a pair of researchers from South Africa identifies cannabidiol (CBD) as potentially beneficial for treating cervical cancer.   

It’s likely that the major non-psychoactive compound cannabidiol (CBD) is responsible for cannabis’ anti-cancer effects, according to a recent study published in BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine.

The study, conducted by Lesetja R. Motadi and Sindiswa T. Lukhele of North-West University in South Africa, utilized in vitro analysis techniques to compare the anti-proliferative effects of cannabis sativa extract and one of its main cannabinoids — CBD — on human cervical cancer cells.

Both CBD and cannabis sativa extracts were shown to be effective at inhibiting cancer cell proliferation, even at varying concentrations. However, the investigators found that the killing of cancer cells, through a process called apoptosis, was induced by CBD. Additionally, CBD, even at lower concentrations, was found to be more effective in inducing apoptosis than cannabis extracts.

“In conclusion, these data suggest that cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa crude extracts prevent cell growth and induce cell death in cervical cancer cell lines,” the study concludes.

Cervical cancer is a malignant tumor that develops within the cervix, the lowest most part of the uterus. At one point it was the leading cause of cancer death for women in the United States, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The number of related deaths has dropped over the past 40 years, however, as women started regularly getting pap tests. Still, in 2017 there will be an estimated 12,820 women in the U.S. diagnosed with cervical cancer, and the disease will claim about 4,210 lives. In the Sub-Saharan Africa, home of the researchers, the impact of cervical cancer is much more significant. There, according to Motadi and Lukhele, cervical cancer kills approximately 250,000 women every year.

“This makes it the most lethal cancer amongst black women and calls for urgent therapeutic strategies,” wrote the study’s authors.

Motadi and Lukhele’s findings contribute to the growing body of evidence indicating the efficacy of cannabinoids for cancer. Previous animal model studies have shown CBD and tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) to inhibit the progression of cancers located in the breast, lung, prostate, and colon. While more investigation is needed to discover how CBD inhibits human cancer cells, the findings so far show great promise of the compound eventually becoming a part of cancer treatment efforts.

“More research needs to be done elucidating the mechanism between the active ingredients and molecular targets involved in the regulation of the cell cycle,” Motadi and Lukhele said.

You can read their entire study, “Cannabidiol rather than Cannabis sativa extracts inhibit cell growth and induce apoptosis in cervical cancer cells,” via BioMed Central and the National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine.

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