Harvard Study Finds Cannabis Chemical Could Help Fight Pancreatic Cancer

Researchers from Harvard University’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute have found a chemical in the cannabis plant that has demonstrated “significant therapy potential” for pancreatic cancer treatment.

Scientists tested the effects of FBL-03G, a derivative of a cannabis flavonoid, on pancreatic cancer cells in petri dishes and on animals with the disease. The flavonoid treatment killed all of the tumor cells in 70 percent of mice with pancreatic cancer that were tested for the study.

“The findings demonstrate the potential for this new cannabis derivative in the treatment of both localized and advanced pancreatic cancer,” the study’s authors said. “The results justify further studies to optimize therapy outcomes toward clinical translation.”

To isolate FBL-03G, scientists used flash chromatography and then separated FBL-03G from other flavonoids found in cannabis. The flavonoids were then delivered directly to the tumors using “smart radiotherapy biomaterials,” which are described as tiny drones used to fight cancer. In one experiment, mice that were untreated died within 20 days. Between 30 and 50 percent of mice were still alive after 40 days after being treated with a combination of flavonoid and radiation therapy.

In addition to killing pancreatic cancer cells, the researchers found FBL-03G capable of attacking other cancer cells as well.

“This suggests that the immune system is involved as well, and we are currently investigating this mechanism,” said Wilfred Ngwa, PhD, assistant professor at Harvard and one of the study’s researchers.

Flavonoids are naturally occurring compounds found in plants, fruits and vegetables. Flavonoids in cannabis were first discovered in 1986 and were later found to have anti-inflammatory benefits. Researchers in Ontario have discovered a way to use flavonoids to create pain relievers that are more potent than aspirin.

Pancreatic cancer is one of the deadliest forms of cancer with a five-year survival rate of just nine percent. Pancreatic cancer is expected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths by next year.

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