Drugs that target the endocannabinoid system are of interest as pharmacological options to combat cancer and to improve the life quality of cancer patients. From this perspective, cannabinoid compounds have been successfully tested as a systemic therapeutic option in a number of preclinical models over the past decades. As a result of these efforts, a large body of data suggests that the anticancer effects of cannabinoids are exerted at multiple levels of tumour progression via different signal transduction mechanisms. Accordingly, there is considerable evidence for cannabinoid-mediated inhibition of tumour cell proliferation, tumour invasion and metastasis, angiogenesis and chemoresistance, as well as induction of apoptosis and autophagy. Further studies showed that cannabinoids could be potential combination partners for established chemotherapeutic agents or other therapeutic interventions in cancer treatment. Research in recent years has yielded several compounds that exert promising effects on tumour cells and tissues in addition to the psychoactive Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol, such as the non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid cannabidiol and inhibitors of endocannabinoid degradation. This review provides an up-to-date overview of the potential of cannabinoids as inhibitors of tumour growth and spread as demonstrated in preclinical studies.
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