Cannabinoids comprise the plant‐derived compounds and their synthetic derivatives as well as endogenously produced lipophilic mediators. Phytocannabinoids are terpenophenolic secondary metabolites predominantly produced in Cannabissativa L. The principal active constituent is delta‐9‐tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), which binds to endocannabinoid receptors to exert its pharmacological activity, including psychoactive effect. The other important molecule of current interest is non‐psychotropic cannabidiol (CBD). Since 1970s, phytocannabinoids have been known for their palliative effects on some cancer‐associated symptoms such as nausea and vomiting reduction, appetite stimulation and pain relief. More recently, these molecules have gained special attention for their role in cancer cell proliferation and death. A large body of evidence suggests that cannabinoids affect multiple signalling pathways involved in the development of cancer, displaying an anti‐proliferative, proapoptotic, anti‐angiogenic and anti‐metastatic activity on a wide range of cell lines and animal models of cancer. These findings have led to the development of clinical studies to investigate potential anti‐cancer activity in humans, but reliable clinical evidence for this therapeutic option is still missing.
Part of the book: Natural Products and Cancer Drug Discovery