Cannabis sativa plants have a wide diversity in their metabolite composition among their different chemovars, facilitating diverse anti-tumoral effects on cancer cells. This research examined the anti-tumoral effects of 24 cannabis extracts representative of three primary types of chemovars on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The chemical composition of the extracts was determined using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Mass Spectrometry (MS). The most potent anti-tumoral extracts were type III decarboxylated extracts, with high levels of Cannabidiol (CBD). We identified extract 296 (CAN296) as the most potent in inducing HNSCC cell death via proapoptotic and anti-proliferative effects. Using chemical fractionation of CAN296, we identified the CBD fraction as the primary inducer of the anti-tumoral activity. We succeeded in defining the combination of CBD with cannabichromene (CBC) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in minute concentrations in the extract, yielding a synergic impact that mimics the extract's full effect. The cytotoxic effect could be maximized by combining CBD with either CBC or THC in a ratio of 2:1. This research suggests using decarboxylated CBD-type extracts enriched with CBC for future preclinical trials aimed at HNSCC treatment.
Keywords: CBC; CBD; HNSCC carcinoma; apoptosis; cancer; cannabinoids; cannabis; oral cancer.