Use of cannabinoid receptor agonists in cancer therapy as palliative and curative agents

Best Pract Res Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Feb;23(1):117-31. doi: 10.1016/j.beem.2009.02.001.


Cannabinoids (the active components of Cannabis sativa) and their derivatives have received renewed interest in recent years due to their diverse pharmacological activities. In particular, cannabinoids offer potential applications as anti-tumour drugs, based on the ability of some members of this class of compounds to limit cell proliferation and to induce tumour-selective cell death. Although synthetic cannabinoids may have pro-tumour effects in vivo due to their immunosuppressive properties, predominantly inhibitory effects on tumour growth and migration, angiogenesis, metastasis, and also inflammation have been described. Emerging evidence suggests that agonists of cannabinoid receptors expressed by tumour cells may offer a novel strategy to treat cancer. In this chapter we review the more recent results generating interest in the field of cannabinoids and cancer, and provide novel suggestions for the development, exploration and use of cannabinoid agonists for cancer therapy, not only as palliative but also as curative drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators / therapeutic use*
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunosuppression Therapy / methods
  • Nausea / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / etiology
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Pain / drug therapy*
  • Palliative Care*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / physiology
  • Risk
  • Vomiting / drug therapy


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Modulators
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2