Antitumorigenic targets of cannabinoids - current status and implications

Expert Opin Ther Targets. 2016 Oct;20(10):1219-35. doi: 10.1080/14728222.2016.1177512. Epub 2016 May 11.


Introduction: Molecular structures of the endocannabinoid system have gained interest as potential pharmacotherapeutical targets for systemic cancer treatment.

Areas covered: The present review covers the contribution of the endocannabinoid system to cancer progression. Particular focus will be set on the accumulating preclinical data concerning antimetastatic, anti-invasive and anti-angiogenic mechanisms induced by cannabinoids.

Expert opinion: The main goal of targeting endocannabinoid structures for systemic anticancer treatment is the comparatively good safety profile of cannabinoid compounds. In addition, antitumorigenic mechanisms of cannabinoids are not restricted to a single molecular cascade but involve multiple effects on various levels of cancer progression such as angiogenesis and metastasis. Particularly the latter effect has gained interest for pharmacological interventions. Thus, drugs aiming at the endocannabinoid system may represent potential 'antimetastatics' for an upgrade of a future armamentarium against cancer diseases.

Keywords: Angiogenesis; cancer; cannabinoid receptors; cannabinoids; endocannabinoids; metastasis; tumor cell invasion.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / adverse effects
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Cannabinoids / adverse effects
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use*
  • Disease Progression
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / prevention & control
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / pathology


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids