Breast cancer is the second leading cause of death among women. Although early diagnosis and development of new treatments have improved their prognosis, many patients present innate or acquired resistance to current therapies. New therapeutic approaches are therefore warranted for the management of this disease. Extensive preclinical research has demonstrated that cannabinoids, the active ingredients of Cannabis sativa, trigger antitumor responses in different models of cancer. Most of these studies have been conducted with pure compounds, mainly Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). The cannabis plant, however, produces hundreds of other compounds with their own therapeutic potential and the capability to induce synergic responses when combined, the so-called "entourage effect". Here, we compared the antitumor efficacy of pure THC with that of a botanical drug preparation (BDP). The BDP was more potent than pure THC in producing antitumor responses in cell culture and animal models of ER+/PR+, HER2+ and triple-negative breast cancer. This increased potency was not due to the presence of the 5 most abundant terpenes in the preparation. While pure THC acted by activating cannabinoid CB2 receptors and generating reactive oxygen species, the BDP modulated different targets and mechanisms of action. The combination of cannabinoids with estrogen receptor- or HER2-targeted therapies (tamoxifen and lapatinib, respectively) or with cisplatin, produced additive antiproliferative responses in cell cultures. Combinations of these treatments in vivo showed no interactions, either positive or negative. Together, our results suggest that standardized cannabis drug preparations, rather than pure cannabinoids, could be considered as part of the therapeutic armamentarium to manage breast cancer.
Keywords: Botanical drug preparation; Breast cancer; Cannabinoid; Chemotherapy; THC; Targeted therapy.
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