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Marijuana Extract Can Kill Melanoma Cells, New Study Reveals Possible Treatment For Skin Cancer

A new study indicates cannabis has the potential to treat melanoma, a skin cancer beginning in the melanocyte cells, which make the pigment that gives skin its color.

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Melanoma typically results from over-exposure to the sun. While skin cancer is one of the most common cancers in the United States, melanoma accounts for only about 1%, yet causes a large majority of skin cancer deaths, according to the American Cancer Society.

New research published in a peer-reviewed Cell Journal conducted by scientists from Charles Darwin University (CDU) and RMIT University offers hope for the creation of a natural treatment for melanoma.

The study, part of a Ph.D. project by RMIT's Dr. Ava Bachari, showed that a specific cannabis extract (PHEX-66) from the cannabis sativa plant binds to receptor sites on particular melanoma cells, controlling its growth at two key phases and increasing the amount of damage to these cells.

Dr. Nazim Nassar, the study co-author and CDU pharmaceutical lecturer said this damage practically tricks cells into killing itself, writes Mirage News. This inhibitory effect arises from interactions with CB1 and CB2 receptors, the paper reads. 

“The damage to the melanoma cell prevents it from dividing into new cells, and instead begins a programmed cell death, also known as apoptosis,” Dr. Nassar said. “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. If we know how they react to cancer cells, particularly in the cause of cell death, we can refine treatment techniques to be more specific, responsive and effective”.

According to Nassar, who specializes in cancer cell biology, pharmacology and drug delivery systems, the next step should be to create a targeted delivery system for the melanoma cells in preparation for pre-clinical trials.

“Clinical uses of cannabis extracts include treatment for anxiety, cancer-related symptoms, epilepsy, and chronic pain. Intensive research into its potential for killing melanoma cells is only the start as we investigate how this knowledge can be applied to treating different types of cancers," Nassar said. 

Professor Nitin Mantir, lead author and RMIT biotechnologist, said there needs to be a thorough follow-up to assess the long-term efficiency and safety of the PHEC-66 extract. 

“The subsequent stage involves animal studies or pre-clinical trials to validate and further explore the efficacy of cannabinoid PHEC-66 in treating melanoma and other cancers,” Mantri said.

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Both authors stressed the need for support and sponsorship to eventually qualify PHEC-66 as a registered medicine.

Cannabis And Cancer 

Numerous studies have confirmed cannabis' potential as a treatment for various types of cancer, including Israeli research of a cell model study showing that its "Integrative-Colon" products killed over 90% of colon cancer cells and a 2021 study revealing a sixfold improvement in killing breast cancer cells when using medical cannabis products in combination with standard oncology treatments


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