Exosomal delivery of cannabinoids against cancer

Cancer Lett. 2023 Jul 10:566:216243. doi: 10.1016/j.canlet.2023.216243. Epub 2023 May 29.


Exosomes are extracellular vesicles (EVs) originating from endosomes that play a role in cellular communication. These vesicles which mimic the parental cells that release them are promising candidates for targeted drug delivery and therapeutic applications against cancer because of their favorable biocompatibility, specific targeting, low toxicity, and immunogenicity. Currently, Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), cannabidiol (CBD) and other cannabinoids (e.g., CBG, THCV, CBC), are being explored for their anticancer and anti-proliferative properties. Several mechanisms, including cell cycle arrest, proliferation inhibition, activation of autophagy and apoptosis, inhibition of adhesion, metastasis, and angiogenesis have been proposed for their anticancer activity. EVs could be engineered as cannabinoid delivery systems for tumor-specificity leading to superior anticancer effects. This review discusses current techniques for EV isolation from various sources, characterization and strategies to load them with cannabinoids. More extensively, we culminate information available on different sources of EVs that have anticancer activity, mechanism of action of cannabinoids against various wild type and resistant tumors and role of CBD in histone modifications and cancer epigenetics. We have also enumerated the role of EVs containing cannabinoids against various tumors and in chemotherapy induced neuropathic pain.

Keywords: Anticancer potential; Cannabinoids; Delivery system; Exosomes; Tumor-specificity.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Cannabidiol* / pharmacology
  • Cannabidiol* / therapeutic use
  • Cannabinoids* / metabolism
  • Cannabinoids* / pharmacology
  • Cannabinoids* / therapeutic use
  • Dronabinol / pharmacology
  • Dronabinol / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy


  • Cannabinoids
  • Dronabinol
  • Cannabidiol