Cannabinoids in Breast Cancer: Differential Susceptibility According to Subtype

Molecules. 2021 Dec 28;27(1):156. doi: 10.3390/molecules27010156.


Although cannabinoids have been used for centuries for diverse pathological conditions, recently, their clinical interest and application have emerged due to their diverse pharmacological properties. Indeed, it is well established that cannabinoids exert important actions on multiple sclerosis, epilepsy and pain relief. Regarding cancer, cannabinoids were first introduced to manage chemotherapy-related side effects, though several studies demonstrated that they could modulate the proliferation and death of different cancer cells, as well as angiogenesis, making them attractive agents for cancer treatment. In relation to breast cancer, it has been suggested that estrogen receptor-negative (ER-) cells are more sensitive to cannabinoids than estrogen receptor-positive (ER+) cells. In fact, most of the studies regarding their effects on breast tumors have been conducted on triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Nonetheless, the number of studies on human epidermal growth factor receptor 2-positive (HER2+) and ER+ breast tumors has been rising in recent years. However, besides the optimistic results obtained thus far, there is still a long way to go to fully understand the role of these molecules. This review intends to help clarify the clinical potential of cannabinoids for each breast cancer subtype.

Keywords: Cannabis sativa; anandamide; breast cancer; cannabidiol; cannabidivarin; cannabigerol; cannabinoids; cannabinol; Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cannabinoids / chemistry
  • Cannabinoids / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids / pharmacology*
  • Cannabinoids / therapeutic use
  • Cell Cycle / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle / genetics
  • Disease Management
  • Disease Susceptibility
  • Endocannabinoids / metabolism
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Phytochemicals / metabolism
  • Phytochemicals / pharmacology
  • Phytochemicals / therapeutic use
  • Protein Binding
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid / metabolism
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Structure-Activity Relationship
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / etiology
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / pathology


  • Cannabinoids
  • Endocannabinoids
  • Phytochemicals
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid