Cannabis -vs- Liver Cancer

​​​​​​cannabis carcinoma (HCC) is the third cause of cancer-related death worldwide. When these tumors are in advanced stages, few therapeutic options are available. Therefore, it is essential to search for new treatments to fight this disease. In this study, we investigated the effects of cannabinoids--a novel family of potential anticancer agents--on the growth of HCC. We found that Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC, the main active component of Cannabis sativa) and JWH-015 (a cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB(2)) cannabinoid receptor-selective agonist) reduced the viability of the human HCC cell lines HepG2 (human hepatocellular liver carcinoma cell line) and HuH-7 (hepatocellular carcinoma cells), an effect that relied on the stimulation of CB(2) receptor. We also found that Δ(9)-THC- and JWH-015-induced autophagy relies on tribbles homolog 3 (TRB3) upregulation, and subsequent inhibition of the serine-threonine kinase Akt/mammalian target of rapamycin C1 axis and adenosine monophosphate-activated kinase (AMPK) stimulation. Pharmacological and genetic inhibition of AMPK upstream kinases supported that calmodulin-activated kinase kinase β was responsible for cannabinoid-induced AMPK activation and autophagy. In vivo studies revealed that Δ(9)-THC and JWH-015 reduced the growth of HCC subcutaneous xenografts, an effect that was not evident when autophagy was genetically of pharmacologically inhibited in those tumors. Moreover, cannabinoids were also able to inhibit tumor growth and ascites in an orthotopic model of HCC xenograft. Our findings may contribute to the design of new therapeutic strategies for the management of HCC. Endocannabinoids are lipid mediators of the same cannabinoid (CB) receptors that mediate the effects of marijuana. The endocannabinoid system (ECS) consists of CB receptors, endocannabinoids, and the enzymes involved in their biosynthesis and degradation, and is present both in brain and peripheral tissues, including the liver. The hepatic ECS is activated in various liver diseases, which contributes to the underlying pathologies. In cirrhosis of various etiologies, activation of vascular and cardiac CB1 receptors by macrophage- and platelet-derived endocannabinoids contribute to the vasodilated state and cardiomyopathy, which can be reversed by CB1 blockade. In mouse models of liver fibrosis, activation of CB1 receptors on hepatic stellate cells is fibrogenic, and CB1 blockade slows the progression of fibrosis. Fatty liver induced by high-fat diets or chronic alcohol feeding depend on activation of peripheral, including hepatic CB1 receptors, which also contribute to insulin resistance and dyslipidemias. Although the documented therapeutic potential of CB1 blockade is limited by neuropsychiatric side effects, these may be mitigated by using novel, peripherally restricted CB1 antagonists.

The ECS is present in the liver and is involved in the control of various hepatic functions with important therapeutic implications. Increased CB1 activity contributes to the hemodynamic abnormalities and promotes fibrosis in liver cirrhosis, whereas CB1 blockade attenuates and delays these changes. Endocannabinoids acting via hepatic CB1 receptors have emerged as mediators of both diet-induced and alcoholic fatty liver which, together, account for the majority of cirrhosis in Western societies. Additionally, hepatic CB1 activation contributes to obesity-related insulin- and leptin-resistance and dyslipidemias. This provides strong rationale for the therapeutic use of CB1 antagonists in these conditions. Although neuropsychiatric side effects limit the therapeutic potential of brain-penetrant CB1 antagonists, the recent emergence of second generation, peripherally-restricted CB1 antagonists may mitigate this problem. Additionally, non-psychoactive CB2 agonists may offer therapeutic benefit in attenuating liver injury and promoting tissue repair in the fibrotic liver.