Targeting Fatty Acid Amide Hydrolase Counteracts the Epithelial-to-Mesenchymal Transition in Keratinocyte-Derived Tumors

Int J Mol Sci. 2023 Dec 12;24(24):17379. doi: 10.3390/ijms242417379.


The endocannabinoid system regulates physiological processes, and the modulation of endogenous endocannabinoid (eCB) levels is an attractive tool to contrast the development of pathological skin conditions including cancers. Inhibiting FAAH (fatty acid amide hydrolase), the degradation enzyme of the endocannabinoid anandamide (AEA) leads to the increase in AEA levels, thus enhancing its biological effects. Here, we evaluated the anticancer property of the FAAH inhibitor URB597, investigating its potential to counteract epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process crucially involved in tumor progression. The effects of the compound were determined in primary human keratinocytes, ex vivo skin explants, and the squamous carcinoma cell line A431. Our results demonstrate that URB597 is able to hinder the EMT process by downregulating mesenchymal markers and reducing migratory potential. These effects are associated with the dampening of the AKT/STAT3 signal pathways and reduced release of pro-inflammatory cytokines and tumorigenic lipid species. The ability of URB597 to contrast the EMT process provides insight into effective approaches that may also include the use of FAAH inhibitors for the treatment of skin cancers.

Keywords: FAAH inhibition; bioactive lipids; endocannabinoids; epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition; keratinocyte-derived skin cancers.

MeSH terms

  • Amidohydrolases / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids* / metabolism
  • Endocannabinoids* / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Keratinocytes / metabolism
  • Neoplasms*
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / metabolism
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides / pharmacology


  • Endocannabinoids
  • cyclohexyl carbamic acid 3'-carbamoylbiphenyl-3-yl ester
  • fatty-acid amide hydrolase
  • Polyunsaturated Alkamides
  • Amidohydrolases