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Recenti Prog Med. 2003 May;94(5):194-8.

[The endocannabinoid system as a target for the development of new drugs for cancer therapy].

[Article in Italian]

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Dipartimento di Scienze Farmaceutiche, Università di Salerno, Istituto di Endocrinologia ed Oncologia Sperimentale del CNR, Dipartimento di Biologia e Patologia Cellulare e Molecolare, Università Federico II, Napoli.


Studies on the main bioactive components of Cannabis sativa, the cannabinoids, and particularly delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), led to the discovery of a new endogenous signalling system that controls several physiological and pathological conditions: the endocannabinoid system. This comprises the cannabinlid receptors, their endogenous agonists--the endocannabinoids--and proteins for endocannabinoid biosynthesis and inactivation. Recently, evidence has accumulated indicating that stimulation of cannabinoid receptors by either THC or the endocannabinoids influence the intracellular events controlling the proliferation and apoptosis of numerous types of cancer cells, thereby leading to anti-tumour effects both in vitro and in vivo. This evidence is reviewed here and suggests that future anti-cancer therapy might be developed from our knowledge of how the endocannabinoid system controls the growth and metastasis of malignant cells.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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