A study in the journal Biochemical Pharmacology, published July 2014, elaborates upon a unique mechanism of cannabinoids’ anti-cancer activity. It is notable for demonstrating how cannabinoids work synergistically with the body’s immune system to stop cancer, unlike traditional treatments which destroy the immune system in the process of stopping cancer.
Researchers tested the effects of CBD, THC, and an endocannabinoid analogue called methanandamide on two lung cancer cell lines, A549 and H460, along with cells from a lung cancer patient. It found these compounds increased expression of intercellular adhesion molecule 1 (ICAM-1) on the cancer cells, which made them more susceptible to white blood cells called lymphokine-activated killer cells (LAK). However, normal cells were not affected this way, showing yet again that cannabinoids can selectively target abnormal cells while leaving healthy tissue alone.
LAK cells are a very powerful part of the body’s natural anti-cancer defense system. In fact, direct administration of LAK cells has been tested for cancer treatment, along with interleukin-2, a cellular signaling protein that activates LAK cells. This has shown promise, but like most pharmaceutical interventions there are unpleasant side effects. Using cannabinoids is a safer and potentially more effective way to take advantage of the body’s natural LAK cells.