Groundbreaking Cannabis Research on Cancer: The U.S. Needs to Catch Up

For decades, cannabis and its extracts, popularly known as marijuana and/or weed, were largely deemed mere recreational drugs and frowned upon by many societies. In numerous locations, they’re still illegal. But times are changing, and a lot of this change can be attributed to rigorous scientific research.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, particularly through the diligent efforts of Professor Raphael Mechoulam, has been at the forefront of this transformative research for over half a century. Professor Mechoulam and his team isolated the psychoactive ingredient in Cannabis, Δ9-THC, determined its chemical structure, and discovered its natural counterparts in our bodies, the endocannabinoids. These endocannabinoids play an incredibly versatile role in our bodies, influencing an array of biological processes and human pathologies. In essence, they are some of the most widespread signaling molecules ever identified.

Diving deep into this field, the Hebrew University School of Pharmacy established the Multidisciplinary Center for Cannabinoid Research. This center carries out cutting-edge research on various aspects of cannabinoids, endocannabinoids, and medical cannabis. Their focal areas span from studying its impact on cancer, pain, stress management, immunity, and metabolism, to advancements in drug delivery, nanotechnology, pharmaceutical chemistry, neuroscience, and plant genetics.

Specifically, their findings indicate that cannabinoids can potentially alleviate cancer-associated symptoms. In animal models, cannabinoids have shown the potential to suppress tumor growth. They induce cancer cells to self-destruct, prevent the tumors from forming blood vessels needed for their growth, and inhibit the spread of cancer cells. The mechanisms behind these actions are primarily through special spots in our body known as cannabinoid receptors, especially the CB2 receptor tied to the immune system.

Chemotherapy, while effective in treating some types of cancer, often comes with adverse side effects. One of the major side effects is Chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), which is mainly caused by drugs like paclitaxel (PTX). This results in damage primarily to the peripheral nervous system, which includes sensory nerves. It’s a problem that affects many patients undergoing chemotherapy, and solutions to combat these side effects have been sought after for years.

Recent studies have shed light on the promising potential of cannabinoids, particularly cannabidiol (CBD), a major component in the cannabis plant that doesn’t get you ‘high’. Research on a specific variant of CBD, called PECS-101 (formerly known as HUF-101), has shown encouraging results in mice. When PECS-101 was given to mice undergoing PTX treatment, it significantly reduced nerve pain related to touch and cold sensations. This relief appears to be due to a specific mechanism in the body called PPARγ found in immune cells known as macrophages.

In addition to pain relief, PECS-101 also seemed to minimize the damage caused by PTX on sensory nerves and reduced the expression of certain inflammation-related genes. Importantly, while offering these benefits, PECS-101 did not interfere with the primary cancer-fighting role of the chemotherapy drug, nor did it have negative effects on motor function or show any signs of being addictive.

This discovery is significant as it suggests that PECS-101 might be a potential treatment option for those undergoing chemotherapy, helping them alleviate some of the debilitating side effects without compromising the effectiveness of their primary treatment.

This comprehensive body of evidence poses a significant question for countries like the U.S., where cannabis remains a Schedule 1 drug, indicating that it supposedly has no medicinal value. The groundbreaking research from Professor Mechoulam and the Hebrew University calls for a reassessment of this classification, highlighting the potential medical benefits of cannabis. The American people deserve access to this potentially life-changing research, free from stigmas and outdated classifications.

For too long, societal misconceptions and regulatory roadblocks have hindered our access to and understanding of this plant’s vast medicinal capabilities. Now, armed with this knowledge, it’s imperative for both the U.S. government and we as the citizens to rally behind the cause of ending the outdated prohibition on cannabis. But it’s not just about legalization; it’s about championing increased research funding, fostering scientific collaborations, and removing trade barriers. Let us not deny ourselves and future generations the immense benefits this plant offers. It’s time for collective action to acknowledge, embrace, and harness the healing power of cannabis for the betterment of all.


  1. The Cannabidiol Analog PECS-101 Prevents Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathic Pain via PPAR$\gamma$ Receptors.
    1. Nicole Rodrigues Silva, Gomes, Francisco Isaac Fernandes , Lopes, Alexandre Hashimoto Pereira , Cortez, Isadora Lopes , dos Santos, Jéssica Cristina , Silva, Conceição Elidianne Aníbal , Raphael Mechoulam, , Gomes, Felipe Villela , Cunha, Thiago Mattar , and Guimarães, Francisco Silveira . 2022. “The Cannabidiol Analog Pecs-101 Prevents Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathic Pain Via Ppar$\Gamma$ Receptors.”. Neurotherapeutics : The Journal Of The American Society For Experimental Neurotherapeutics, 19, 1, Pp. 434–449. doi:10.1007/s13311-021-01164-w.
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