Key cannabis chemical may help prevent colon cancer, researchers say

©The State (Columbia, S.C.)

Sunshine Johnston squeezes a bit of oil from a cannabis bud to smell for quality. - Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times/TNS

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A chemical in marijuana may be able to help prevent colon cancer, according to a new study from top University of South Carolina researchers.

The study, published in iScience, found that mice injected with THC and a cancer-causing chemical did not develop cancer. Mice in a control group were injected with the carcinogen but no THC, causing them to develop cancer.

“We were really excited to see those results, which were so dramatic,” said co-author Prakash Nagarkatti, who is the University of South Carolina’s vice president of research.

THC — the chemical in cannabis that causes a “high” — prevented cancer from emerging in mice by reducing inflammation in the colon, said Nagarkatti, who is one of America’s leading marijuana researchers. This could be useful for people who have illnesses such as Crohn’s disease and colitis, where long-term inflammation increases risk of cancer, Nagarkatti said.

“We clearly need to do clinical trials and additional research needs to be done,” Nagarkatti said.

Chronic inflammation is also thought to increase risk for other types of cancer, such as breast cancer, pancreatic cancer and prostate cancer, Nagarkatti said.

“There are quite a few of these cancers that are triggered by chronic inflammation,” Nagarkatti said.

Nagarkatti’s conclusion corroborates anecdotal evidence THC may be effective in helping humans with illnesses like Crohn’s that cause chronic inflammation, he said.

In states where medical marijuana is legal, many people with inflammatory bowel disease who have tried using marijuana have reported to their doctors it lessened symptoms and improved quality of life, Nagarkatti said.

While colonoscopies have reduced the amount of colon cancer in older Americans, more Americans in their 40s are getting colon cancer, Nagarkatti said. Perhaps the most public example of this recently was Chadwick Bozeman, the South Carolina native and star of “Black Panther,” who died late last month at age 43 from colon cancer.

Mitzi Nagarkatti, the chair of the university’s department of Pathology, Microbiology and Immunology who is married to Prakash, is listed as a co-author on the study. The duo have recently published multiple studies on chemicals found in marijuana. Recently, they published a study that found THC may be able to treat a deadly complication of COVID-19 by tamping down a harmful immune system response to the coronavirus.

———

©2020 The State (Columbia, S.C.)