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Cannabinoid Receptor Suppresses Colorectal Cancer Growth

Cannabinoid receptor 1 may be an important therapeutic target

MONDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1), which binds compounds related to marijuana, is important in suppressing the growth of colorectal cancer and may be an important therapeutic target, according to a report in the Aug. 1 issue of Cancer Research.

Dingzhi Wang, Ph.D., from Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tenn., and colleagues investigated the importance of CB1 in colorectal cancer. Recent studies have suggested that the body's endogenous cannabinoids are important in the normal function of the digestive system and protect the colon against inflammation, the authors note.

The researchers found that CB1 expression was largely absent in colorectal cancer cell lines and human tumor specimens, which was due to methylation of the gene's promoter region. Deleting the CB1 gene in a strain of mice prone to developing precancerous polyps further increased the number of polyps and the number of large growths. Activating CB1 with a drug in the same mouse strain reduced the number of tumors by inducing cell death, the report indicates.

"Our results may provide a rationale for the development of CB1 agonists that do not cross the blood-brain barrier for cancer prevention or treatment in combination with a demethylating agent," the authors conclude.

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