Cannabinoid 2 receptor induction by IL-12 and its potential as a therapeutic target for the treatment of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma

Cancer Gene Ther. 2008 Feb;15(2):101-7. doi: 10.1038/sj.cgt.7701101. Epub 2007 Dec 21.


Anaplastic thyroid carcinoma is the most aggressive type of thyroid malignancies. Previously, we demonstrated that tumorigenicity of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma cell line ARO was significantly reduced following interleukin (IL)-12 gene transfer. We suspected that tumor target structure in ARO/IL-12 cells might be changed and such a change may make them more susceptible to be killed through mechanisms apart from natural killer-dependent pathway. To identify genes involved, we examined gene expression profile of ARO and ARO/IL-12 by microarray analysis of 3757 genes. The most highly expressed gene was cannabinoid receptor 2 (CB2), which was expressed eightfold higher in ARO/IL-12 cells than ARO cells. CB2 agonist JWH133 and mixed CB1/CB2 agonist WIN-55,212-2 could induce significantly higher rate of apoptosis in ARO/IL-12 than ARO cells. Similar results were obtained when ARO cells were transfected with CB2 transgene (ARO/CB2). A considerable regression of thyroid tumors generated by inoculation of ARO/CB2 cells was observed in nude mice following local administration of JWH133. We also demonstrated significant increase in the induction of apoptosis in ARO/IL12 and ARO/CB2 cells following incubation with 15 nM paclitaxel, indicating that tumor cells were sensitized to chemotherapy. These data suggest that CB2 overexpression may contribute to the regression of human anaplastic thyroid tumor in nude mice following IL-12 gene transfer. Given that cannabinoids have shown antitumor effects in many types of cancer models, CB2 may be a viable therapeutic target for the treatment of anaplastic thyroid carcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma / therapy*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Female
  • Gene Transfer Techniques
  • Genetic Therapy*
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-12 / administration & dosage
  • Interleukin-12 / genetics
  • Interleukin-12 / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / biosynthesis*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / genetics*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / metabolism
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / physiology
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Thyroid Neoplasms / therapy*


  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • Interleukin-12