Harvard researchers find that Cannabis flavonoid has potential for treating metastatic pancreatic cancer

I am excited to read the news in Yahoo lifestyle that an analog of a chemical present in Cannabis has been reported to show promise in the treatment of pancreatic cancer.

Back in the 1980’s I did my PhD research at the University of London School of Pharmacy. My thesis work was to examine an extract of the Cannabis plant (aka marijuana, Cannabis sativa L.) looking for anti-inflammatory activity. Using a bioactivity guided approach, I looked for a component in the cannabis plant that had anti-inflammatory activity. I discovered that activity in two chemicals that belong to a chemical class called flavonoids, which I named Cannflavin A and Cannflavin B. Flavonoids are a diverse group of naturally occurring chemicals responsible for the colors in fruits and vegetables, which are known to have antioxidant and antiinflammatory activity. I reported at the time that the Cannflavins had approximately 27 times the activity of aspirin in a cell-based model.

Since that time, little research has been conducted on the Cannflavins. The reason is likely due to the difficulty of working with a plant categorized as a Schedule I drug. So, I was so excited to read about the discovery by researchers at Harvard University’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute that an analog of Cannflavin B, named FBL-03G, has promise in the treatment of pancreatic cancer. Their study was published in the journal Frontiers of Oncology on July 23, 2019. One of the researchers, Wilfred Ngwa PhD, told Abby Haglage of Yahoo Lifestyle that, “The most significant conclusion is that tumor-targeted delivery of flavonoids, derived from cannabis, enabled both local and metastatic tumor cell kill, significantly increasing survival from pancreatic cancer.”

Dr Ngwa went on to say that, on top of successfully killing pancreatic cancer cells, FBL-03G attacked cancer cells in other parts of the body. “We were quite surprised that the drug could inhibit the growth of cancer cells in other parts of the body, representing metastasis, that were not targeted by the treatment.” According to Ngwa’s interview in Yahoo Lifestyle, “This suggests that the immune system is involved as well, and we are currently investigating this mechanism.”

This is an exciting development in a potential treatment for metastatic pancreatic cancer. It is also exciting to look beyond the cannabinoids for more remedies from the cannabis plant! And to discover that research conducted over 30 years ago is bearing fruit today!