Cannabidiol Antiproliferative Effect in Triple-Negative Breast Cancer MDA-MB-231 Cells Is Modulated by Its Physical State and by IGF-1

Int J Mol Sci. 2022 Jun 27;23(13):7145. doi: 10.3390/ijms23137145.


Cannabidiol (CBD) is a non-psychoactive phytocannabinoid that has been discussed for its safety and efficacy in cancer treatments. For this reason, we have inquired into its use on triple-negative human breast cancer. Analyzing the biological effects of CBD on MDA-MB-231, we have demonstrated that both CBD dosage and serum concentrations in the culture medium influence its outcomes; furthermore, light scattering studies demonstrated that serum impacts the CBD aggregation state by acting as a surfactant agent. Pharmacological studies on CBD in combination with chemotherapeutic agents reveal that CBD possesses a protective action against the cytotoxic effect exerted by cisplatin on MDA-MB-231 grown in standard conditions. Furthermore, in a low serum condition (0.5%), starting from a threshold concentration (5 µM), CBD forms aggregates, exerts cytostatic antiproliferative outcomes, and promotes cell cycle arrest activating autophagy. At doses above the threshold, CBD exerts a highly cytotoxic effect inducing bubbling cell death. Finally, IGF-1 and EGF antagonize the antiproliferative effect of CBD protecting cells from harmful consequences of CBD aggregates. In conclusion, CBD effect is strongly associated with the physical state and concentration that reaches the treated cells, parameters not taken into account in most of the research papers.

Keywords: CBD; IGF-1 receptor; action mechanism; autophagy; bubbling cell death; cisplatin.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents* / pharmacology
  • Cannabidiol* / pharmacology
  • Cannabidiol* / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / therapeutic use
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cannabidiol
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I