01/03/2024

A recent study conducted at the Department of Pharmacy at the University of Athens has revealed the potential of lab-modified cannabis to shrink cancer cells and mitigate the side effects associated with chemotherapy. The research focused on the cannabinoid acids found in the cannabis plant, which demonstrated a significant reduction in breast, liver and skin cancer cells after undergoing specific modifications in the laboratory.

The study, presented by Prokopios Magiatis, associate professor at the University’s Laboratory of Pharmacognosy and Natural Products Chemistry, took place during the 9th Panhellenic Conference of Applied Sciences. The aim was to study the anti-tumor activity of these modified cannabinoid acids, with potential application in the production of anticancer drugs in the future.

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The research team was involved in modifying cannabinoid acids to create original chemical compounds. These compounds showed greater penetration into cell membranes and adipose tissues and better stability inside and outside the body, suggesting more promising pharmacological effects. In particular, cannabigerol acid butyl ester (CBG) has shown the most promising results against breast cancer cells. It has been found to be nontoxic and nonpsychoactive in animal experiments, even at high doses. An international patent in collaboration with the University of Athens and the company Ekati Alchemy Lab, SL protects these specific substances.

Magiatis highlighted the ongoing pharmacological evaluation of these substances in collaboration with Dr. Charalambias Boletis and the Hellenic Pasteur Institute research team. You also mentioned negotiations with major pharmaceutical companies to further explore their use. The research group includes Prokopis Magiatis, Evangelos Dadiotis, Eleni Melliou, Vangelis Mitsis, Aikaterini Papakonstantinou and Charalambia Boleti.

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The study findings contribute to the growing body of research on cannabis components, especially the non-psychotropic components, with over 500 ongoing clinical trials. Furthermore, the research team is studying new synthetic components with improved properties.

In terms of medical care, Greek patients currently have access to two preparations containing medicinal cannabis: Epidyolex, which contains cannabidiol alone, and Sativex, which combines tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Both are approved by the European Medicines Agency and the Greek Medicines Authority (EOF) and require a special import procedure as they are not available for sale in Greece. Epidyolex is a complementary treatment for seizures, while Sativex is given to treat spasticity and neuropathic pain.

According to Magiatis, recent legislative regulations indicate that medicinal cannabis end products containing tetrahydrocannabinol will be available in pharmacies but strictly through prescriptions. These products are intended for specific indications, including the prevention and treatment of severe nausea or vomiting caused by chemotherapy, radiotherapy, and combination HIV or hepatitis C therapy. They may also be used to treat chronic pain associated with cancer or diseases of the central or peripheral nervous system, spasticity related to multiple sclerosis or spinal cord injury, and as an appetite stimulator in palliative care for patients undergoing treatment for cancer or AIDS.

Magiatis stressed that prescribing medicinal cannabis should only be considered when other therapeutic options have been exhausted, are not well tolerated or are contraindicated for the patient. However, it is important to note that there are potential side effects, such as relaxation, hypoactivity, drowsiness, rapid heartbeat, dry mouth, decreased intraocular pressure, withdrawal syndrome, euphoria, and abandonment of important daily activities.

The promising results of this study shed light on the potential of lab-modified cannabis in fighting cancer cells while addressing the side effects associated with traditional chemotherapy.

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