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Marijuana ingredient inhibits VEGF pathway required for brain tumor blood vessels

Cannabinoids, the active ingredients in marijuana, restrict the sprouting of blood vessels to brain tumors by inhibiting the expression of genes needed for the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

According to a new study published in the August 15, 2004 issue of the journal Cancer Research, administration of cannabinoids significantly lowered VEGF activity in laboratory mice and two patients with late-stage glioblastoma.

"Blockade of the VEGF pathway constitutes one of the most promising antitumoral approaches currently available," said Manuel Guzmn, professor of biochemistry and molecular biology, with the Complutense University in Madrid, Spain, and the study's principal investigator.

"The present findings provide a novel pharmacological target for cannabinoid-based therapies."

Glioblastoma multiforme, the most aggressive form of glioma, strikes more than 7,000 Americans each year and is considered one of the most malignant and deadliest forms of cancer, generally resulting in death within one to two years following diagnosis.

The disease is usually treated with surgery, followed by conventional radiation alone or in combination with chemotherapy. However, the main tumor often evades total destruction, surviving and growing again, eventually killing the patient. For this reason, researchers are actively seeking other therapeutic strategies, some of which might be considered novel.

In this study, the investigators chose to work with cannabinoids which, in previous studies, have been shown to inhibit the growth of blood vessels, or angiogenesis, in laboratory mice. However, little was known about the specific mechanisms by which cannabinoids impair angiogenesis, or whether the chemical might do the same in human tumors.

To answer the first part of the question, the scientists induced gliomas in mice, which were subsequently inoculated with cannabinoids. Using DNA array analysis, the tea
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Contact: Warren R. Froelich
froelich@aacr.org
215-440-9300
American Association for Cancer Research
15-Aug-2004


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