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J Immunol. 2000 Jul 1;165(1):373-80.

Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol inhibits antitumor immunity by a CB2 receptor-mediated, cytokine-dependent pathway.

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Pulmonary Immunology Laboratory and Division of Pulmonary and Critical Care Medicine, University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, 90095, USA.


In this study, we show that Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the major psychoactive component of marijuana, suppresses host immune reactivity against lung cancer. In two different weakly immunogenic murine lung cancer models, intermittent administration of THC (5 mg/kg, four times/wk i.p. for 4 wk) led to accelerated growth of tumor implants compared with treatment with diluent alone. In contrast to our findings in immunocompetent mice, THC did not affect tumor growth in tumor-bearing SCID mice. The immune inhibitory cytokines, IL-10 and TGF-beta, were augmented, while IFN-gamma was down-regulated at both the tumor site and in the spleens of THC-treated mice. Administration of either anti-IL-10- or anti-TGF-beta-neutralizing Abs prevented the THC-induced enhancement in tumor growth. Both APC and T cells from THC-treated mice showed limited capacities to generate alloreactivity. Furthermore, lymphocytes from THC-treated mice transferred the effect to normal mice, resulting in accelerated tumor growth similar to that seen in the THC-treated mice. THC decreased tumor immunogenicity, as indicated by the limited capacity for tumor-immunized, THC-treated mice to withstand tumor rechallenge. In vivo administration of a specific antagonist of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor also blocked the effects of THC. Our findings suggest the THC promotes tumor growth by inhibiting antitumor immunity by a CB2 receptor-mediated, cytokine-dependent pathway.

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