Cannabis flavonoid could help treat pancreatic cancer

A recent study has concluded that a non-cannabinoid, non-psychoactive cannabis flavonoid, FBL-03G, has the potential to treat pancreatic cancer.

The study, conducted by researchers with Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School, used animal models to look at the impact of FBL-03G – a flavonoid derived from Cannabis sativa L. – on the progression of tumours. It demonstrated the therapeutic efficacy in both local and metastatic tumour progression in animals with pancreatic cancer.

Using a combination treatment of cannabis flavonoid FBL-03G as an immunoadjuvant, in vitro studies were first carried out with and without radiotherapy (RT), with the flavonoid being sustainably delivered from smart radiotherapy biomaterials.

Currently, the survival rate for advanced pancreatic cancers is an average of five years, with current treatment including options such as chemotherapy, radiation and immunotherapy, and surgery – all of which have limited success due to the cancer’s aggressive nature.

What is a cannabis flavonoid?

Flavonoids are secondary metabolites found in plants and fungus – and ones found only in cannabis are known as cannaflavins. These give the plant colour to attract pollinators, work in conjunction with terpenes to give the plant its’ taste and aroma and protect the plant from pests and diseases.

Although flavonoids are widely understudied, we are learning more about them as more research is conducted. A number of recent studies have revealed many pharmacological benefits to the flavonoids found specifically in the cannabis plant.

Therapeutic efficacy

The study, published in Frontiers in Oncology, conducted repeated experiments that showed significant increases in the survival rate for animals with pancreatic cancer compared to control groups.

The study stated: ‘While ongoing studies are in progress to address the specific mechanism for this immunotherapy potential of this cannabis derivative, the possibility of leveraging such a therapy approach to treat metastasis or increase survival is significant, given that most pancreatic cancer patients are diagnosed already with metastatic disease, with limited treatment options.

‘The results highlight the potential of using non-cannabinoid, non-psychoactive derivatives of cannabis for such treatment. Further work to optimise therapeutic efficacy for such cannabis derivatives and evaluate toxicity could set the stage for clinical translation.

‘The FBL-03G results reveal a new potential non-cannabinoid cannabis derivative with major potential for consideration in further investigations in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, where new therapy options are urgently needed.’

Inhibited tumour growth in other parts of the body

The researchers were surprised at some of the unprecedented findings in the study that demonstrated the cannabis flavonoid also inhibited tumour progression in other parts of the body that the cancer had spread to.

The study administered sustained delivery of the cannabis flavonoid derivative FBL-03G from smart radiotherapy biomaterials (SRBs) which resulted in tumour growth inhibition of both locally treated and distant untreated tumours, with and without radiotherapy.

The study noted: ‘The FBL-03G payload used in this study is a flavonoid non-cannabinoid derivative of cannabis, and the potential to inhibit both local and metastatic tumour progression is remarkable, especially for pancreatic cancer, with a dismal five-year survival rate of 8%.’


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