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Cannabis and Cancer: Studies Show…

1. Cannabinoid receptors and neurotransmitters are upregulated in tumor tissue.[1], [2]

Studies show that cancer cells contain more cannabinoid receptors and endocannabinoids. In other words, tumors are sensitive to (one might even say our bodies are looking for) cannabinoids.

2. Cannabis addresses both cancer causes as well as its symptoms.

  • Cannabis not only hinders the growth and metastasis of tumors, but it has been shown to actually shrink tumors.[1], [3]

Studies show cannabis prevents cancer cells from multiplying and spreading, it prevents the formation of new blood vessels to nourish cancer cells, and it induces cell death in cancer cells.

  • Cannabis helps decrease nausea, increase appetite, and decrease pain in cancer patients.[4], [5]

“Cannabinoids… may exert palliative effects in cancer patients by preventing nausea, vomiting, and pain and by stimulating appetite.”[5]

Downregulation and Upregulation of Receptors

In a previous blog entry, Overview of How the Endocannabinoid System Works, we described how our Endocannabinoid Systems (ECSs) contain three basic sets of components: 

  • Cannabinoid receptors: Receptors on cell membranes that are activated by cannabinoids
  • Cannabinoids: The messengers, or neurotransmitters, that activate cannabinoid receptors
  • Cannabinoid enzymes: The enzymes that break down, or inactivate, cannabinoids

Each type of cell has a particular speed at which new cell receptors are naturally synthesized and then subsequently degraded. However, activation of cell receptors by messengers causes receptors to degrade more quickly.[1]

The number of receptors present on the cell at any given time thus depends on how quickly new receptors are being synthesized, relative to how quickly existing receptors are degrading. If receptors are degrading faster than they’re being synthesized, then the total number of receptors on the cell will decrease, or experience downregulation. Conversely, if receptors are being synthesized faster than they’re degrading, the total number of receptors on the cell will increase, or experience upregulation (see Figure 1).

Overview of How the Endocannabinoid System Works

So how does the Endocannabinoid System (ECS) in our bodies work? To understand this, we first have to understand some basics about cells and cell-to-cell communications.


cell is the smallest unit of life. Cells are often called the "building blocks of life." Our bodies are comprised of trillions and trillions of different cells, approximately 32.7 trillion cells in all, of more than 200 different types

Cells Cluster

Each cell has a particular function to perform. At the same time, however, cells cluster to form tissues, organs, and body systems, where they work together with other cells to serve larger functions (see Figure 1)

Figure 1: Cell Clusters

1 cell clusters

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