Targeting the endocannabinoid system with cannabinoid receptor agonists: pharmacological strategies and therapeutic possibilities

Philos Trans R Soc Lond B Biol Sci. 2012 Dec 5;367(1607):3353-63. doi: 10.1098/rstb.2011.0381.

Abstract

Human tissues express cannabinoid CB(1) and CB(2) receptors that can be activated by endogenously released 'endocannabinoids' or exogenously administered compounds in a manner that reduces the symptoms or opposes the underlying causes of several disorders in need of effective therapy. Three medicines that activate cannabinoid CB(1)/CB(2) receptors are now in the clinic: Cesamet (nabilone), Marinol (dronabinol; Δ(9)-tetrahydrocannabinol (Δ(9)-THC)) and Sativex (Δ(9)-THC with cannabidiol). These can be prescribed for the amelioration of chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (Cesamet and Marinol), stimulation of appetite (Marinol) and symptomatic relief of cancer pain and/or management of neuropathic pain and spasticity in adults with multiple sclerosis (Sativex). This review mentions several possible additional therapeutic targets for cannabinoid receptor agonists. These include other kinds of pain, epilepsy, anxiety, depression, Parkinson's and Huntington's diseases, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, stroke, cancer, drug dependence, glaucoma, autoimmune uveitis, osteoporosis, sepsis, and hepatic, renal, intestinal and cardiovascular disorders. It also describes potential strategies for improving the efficacy and/or benefit-to-risk ratio of these agonists in the clinic. These are strategies that involve (i) targeting cannabinoid receptors located outside the blood-brain barrier, (ii) targeting cannabinoid receptors expressed by a particular tissue, (iii) targeting upregulated cannabinoid receptors, (iv) selectively targeting cannabinoid CB(2) receptors, and/or (v) adjunctive 'multi-targeting'.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics / pharmacology
  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / drug effects
  • Blood-Brain Barrier / metabolism
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / administration & dosage
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists / therapeutic use*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / drug therapy
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / metabolism
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Drug Discovery
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / drug therapy*
  • Neurodegenerative Diseases / metabolism
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / agonists*
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / metabolism
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / agonists
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2 / metabolism
  • Risk Assessment

Substances

  • Analgesics
  • Cannabinoid Receptor Agonists
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB2
  • Dronabinol