Endocannabinoid and ceramide levels are altered in patients with colorectal cancer

Oncol Rep. 2015 Jul;34(1):447-54. doi: 10.3892/or.2015.3973. Epub 2015 May 12.


Endocannabinoids and ceramides have demonstrated growth inhibition, cell death induction and pro-apoptotic activity in cancer research. In the present study, we describe the profiles of two major endocannabinoids, ceramides, free fatty acids and relevant metabolic enzymes in 47 pairs of human colorectal cancer tissues and adjacent non-tumor tissues. Among them, anandamide (AEA) and its metabolite, arachidonic acid (AA), were markedly upregulated in cancer tissues particularly in those with lymphatic metastasis. The levels of C16 and C24 ceramides were significantly elevated in the colorectal tumor tissues, while levels of C18 and C20 ceramides showed opposite trends. Levels of two enzymes participating in the biosynthesis and degradation of AEA, N-acyl-phosphatidylethanolamine-hydrolyzing phospholipase D (NPLD) and fatty acid amide hydrolase (FAAH), together with the most abundant ceramide synthases (CerS1, CerS2, CerS5 and CerS6) in the colon were also determined. Quantitative-PCR analysis indicated that the mRNA levels of these enzymes were overexpressed in the tumor tissues. The activities of NPLD and FAAH were also upregulated. In addition, both gene and protein expression levels of cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1) were elevated but not of CB2. Elevation of AEA and alteration of ceramides (C16, C24, C18, C20) may qualify as potential endogenous biomarkers and novel drug targets for colorectal cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Amidohydrolases / genetics
  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism
  • Ceramides / biosynthesis*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Endocannabinoids / biosynthesis*
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Enzymologic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Phospholipase D / genetics
  • Phospholipase D / metabolism
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1 / genetics
  • Sphingosine N-Acyltransferase / genetics
  • Sphingosine N-Acyltransferase / metabolism


  • Ceramides
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Receptor, Cannabinoid, CB1
  • Sphingosine N-Acyltransferase
  • Phospholipase D
  • Amidohydrolases
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase