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Marijuana Compounds Could Beat Back Brain Cancer
Date:1/11/2010

Preliminary lab research suggests they could kill tumor cells

MONDAY, Jan. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Preliminary research suggests that a combination of compounds in marijuana could help fight off a particularly deadly form of brain cancer.

But the findings shouldn't send patients rushing to buy pot: the levels used in the research appear to be too high to obtain through smoking. And there's no sign yet that the approach works in laboratory animals, let alone people.

Still, the finding does suggest that more than one compound in marijuana might boost cancer treatment, said study author Sean McAllister, an associate scientist at California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute in San Francisco. "Combination therapies might be more appropriate," McAllister said.

Researchers have long studied the compounds in marijuana known as cannabinoids, which are thought to hold possible health benefits. One, known as THC, is well known for its role in making people high when they smoke or eat pot. Researchers have been testing it as a treatment for the brain tumors known as glioblastomas.

In the new study, researchers tested THC and cannabidiol, another compound from marijuana, on brain cancer cells. The findings appear in the January issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

The study authors found that the combination treatment seemed to work better at killing the cancerous cells and preventing them from growing back.

About 9,000 people in the United States develop glioblastomas each year, said Dr. Paul Graham Fisher, chief of the Division of Child Neurology at Stanford University and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital. The most famous patient was the late U.S. Senator Ted Kennedy.

The prognosis for people with the condition is grim because tumors spread throughout the brain. It can be impossible for treatments to remove the entire tumor, Fisher said.

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