The endocannabinoid anandamide neither impairs in vitro T-cell function nor induces regulatory T-cell generation

Anticancer Res. 2008 Nov-Dec;28(6A):3743-8.


Background: The cannabinoids have been proposed in the treatment of cancer. Generally, the cannabinoids are believed to be useful only in the palliative therapy of cancer-related symptoms, namely pain, anorexia and cachexia. However, preliminary experiments would also suggest an inhibitory effect of cannabinoids on cancer growth, whereas their influence on anticancer immunity is still controversial. The present study aimed to evaluate the influence of the endogenous cannabinoid anandamide (AEA) on T-cell phenotype and function.

Materials and methods: The in vitro effects of AEA were evaluated at different concentrations on lymphocyte proliferation, cytotoxicity and differentiation, and in particular on T-regulator generation.

Results: AEA did not modify lymphocyte proliferation, neither under basal conditions, nor after IL-2 stimulation. Moreover, AEA did not induce the generation of regulatory T-lymphocytes nor the production of the immunosuppressive cytokine, IL-IO.

Conclusion: The direct antitumor activity of AEA together with the absence of negative effects on T-cell functions might provide new insights into the potential use of cannabinoid agents in cancer immunotherapy.

MeSH terms

  • Arachidonic Acids / pharmacology*
  • CD3 Complex / immunology
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cytokines / biosynthesis
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Humans
  • Immunophenotyping
  • K562 Cells
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / drug effects
  • Leukocytes, Mononuclear / immunology
  • Lymphocyte Activation / drug effects
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / pharmacology*
  • T-Lymphocytes / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes / immunology
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / drug effects*
  • T-Lymphocytes, Regulatory / immunology


  • Arachidonic Acids
  • CD3 Complex
  • Cannabinoids
  • Cytokines
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • anandamide