Roles of Cannabinoids in Melanoma: Evidence from In Vivo Studies

Melanoma is a highly metastatic skin cancer with increasing incidence and mortality rate worldwide. In 2018 alone, approximately 280,000 new cases and 61,000 deaths associated with melanoma were reported in 46 countries. Conventional therapies for this cancer include surgical resection, chemotherapy, and immunotherapy. However, their efficacies were greatly limited by the high metastatic rate and multiple resistant mechanisms of melanoma, as well as their substantial undesirable side effects.

Despite currently being illegal in many countries, cannabis and its derivative compounds have increasingly shown promising therapeutic effects and potential medical applications, substantiated by a growing body of research over the past decade. In the case of melanoma, studies on lab animals suggested that cannabinoids such as THC and CBD extracted from cannabis can individually promote cell death in melanoma cells and decrease tumor size. Synergy was also observed, with THC/CBD combination leading to more tumor reduction compared to individual compounds or to a chemotherapeutic drug, temozolomide. Furthermore, compared to mice treated with an equally effective dose of cisplatin – another chemotherapeutic drug for melanoma, CBD-treated mice had better movement in and out of the cage and less hostile interactions. This behavioral improvement could translate to less agitation and stress in human subjects. To sum up, extracts from cannabis have the potential to not only enhance survival rates but also improve the quality of life in melanoma patients.


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