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Turned-off cannabinoid receptor turns on colorectal tumor growth
Date:7/31/2008

agonist. Cell lines with silenced CB1 resisted cell death.

A series of experiments showed that CB1 increases cancer cell death by stifling a protein called survivin. Survivin is overexpressed in nearly every human tumor but is barely detectable in normal tissue, DuBois noted. Overexpression of survivin is associated with poor outcome and reduced apoptosis in colorectal cancer patients. The researchers pinpointed a cell signaling pathway by which activated CB1 cuts down survivin.

"Just increasing the levels of cannabinoids to treat colorectal cancer won't work if the CB1 receptor is not present," DuBois said. This suggests that treating first with a demethylating agent, such as decitabine, to reactivate CB1 in the tumor and following up with a cannabinoid might be an effective attack on colorectal cancer.

Scarcity of CB1 also is associated with Huntington's disease, Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis. Further investigation, the researchers note, is needed to define its role in those diseases and other types of cancer. The team also analyzed the other main cannabinoid receptor, CB2, and found no role for it in colorectal cancer.

They also treated the mice with a CB1 antagonist, a compound that binds to the receptor but does not activate it. Mice with CB1 blocked in this manner also showed an increase in the number and size of polyps. A CB1 antagonist called rimonabant is currently marketed overseas for weight loss. The researchers note that a patient's risk for colorectal cancer should be assessed when use of such drugs is being considered.


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Contact: Scott Merville
smerville@mdanderson.org
713-792-0661
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
Source:Eurekalert  

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