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A recent study aimed to detail the exact way a certain cannabis extract triggers cell death in melanoma.1

Building on research that had previously been established, researchers in Australia sought to expand knowledge on the various molecular mechanisms of cannabis in producing anticancer effects in melanoma cells.1 Their study, “Evaluating the Mechanism of Cell Death in Melanoma Induced by the Cannabis Extract PHEC-66,” was published in the journal Cells in January 2024.1

Using “techniques such as real-time polymerase chain reaction (qPCR), assays to assess the inhibition of CB1 and CB2 receptors, measurement of reactive oxygen species (ROS), apoptosis assays, and fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) for apoptosis and cell cycle analysis,” researchers explored how the Cannabis sativa extract PHEC-66, which is mostly cannabidiol (CBD), inhibited cancer cell growth and triggered cell death.1

As part of the discussion section,1 researchers concluded that the cannabis extract:

Prevented the formation of cell coloniesImpeded cell migrationInduced cellular immobilityInduced morphological changes indicative of apoptosis

The extract increased the ROS in the cancer cells, stimulating the apoptosis signaling and decreasing anti-apoptotic signaling.1

“The damage to the melanoma cell prevents it from dividing into new cells, and instead begins a programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis,” Nazim Nassar, co-author for the study, explained.2

He also stated that current clinical uses of cannabis already include anxiety, chronic pain, and epilepsy treatments and studies such as this one increase the knowledge around cannabis and cancer.2 “This is a growing area of important research because we need to understand cannabis extracts as much as possible, especially their potential to function as anticancer agents.”

Melanoma in particular is prone to metastasizing and is resistant to the current, limited treatments.1

In the conclusion of the study, researchers called for more preclinical studies to further understand the possible uses of certain cannabinoids as a supplement to therapy, especially for drug development.1


Bachari A, Nassar N, Telukutla S, Zomer R, Piva TJ, Mantri N. Evaluating the mechanism of cell death in melanoma induced by the cannabis extract PHEC-66. Cells 2024, 13 (3), 268 DOI: 10.3390/cells13030268.Charles Darwin University. New study reveals mechanism of cell death in melanoma cells by cannabis extract (accessed Feb 12, 2024).

[This article was originally published by our sister publication, Cannabis Science and Technology.]

 Researchers sought to expand knowledge of the role of cannabis and its molecular mechanisms in anticancer effects.  Read More