By Emily Ledger
Researchers at Harvard University have found that a Cannabis “flavonoid” has the potential to treat Pancreatic Cancer. The flavonoid FBL-03G was seen to kill Cancer cells in the pancreas and throughout the body.
Flavonoids are naturally-occurring compounds found in a variety of plants, fruits, and vegetables – often responsible for colours and tastes. Many flavonoids have been found to have potential health benefits, including being anti-inflammatory and anti-bacterial.
The flavonoids in Cannabis were discovered in 1986 by London researcher, Marylin Barrett, but researchers were unable to extract significant amounts of the compounds. Flavonoids make up just 0.14% of the Cannabis plant, presenting a supply issue. This meant that, despite discovering the potential therapeutic effects of the flavonoids, research in the area was limited.
However, researchers in Canada recently discovered how to genetically engineer these flavonoids. This made it possible to assess the effects of larger quantities of the Cannabis compounds in medical studies.
The discovery made it possible for researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute at Harvard University, to study FBL-03G’s effect on Pancreatic Cancer cells. They recently announced the positive findings that not only did the flavonoid kill cancer cells in the pancreas, it also targeted cancer cells in other parts of the body.
Assistant Professor at Harvard, Wilfred Ngwa, PHD, said:
“The most significant conclusion is that tumor-targeted delivery of flavonoids, derived from cannabis, enabled both local and metastatic tumor cell kill, significantly increasing survival from pancreatic cancer.”
Pancreatic Cancer only makes up around 3% of all cancers in America. However, it is thought that it could become the second-leading cause of cancer-related death by 2020. The cancer has a one-year survival rate of just 20% and a five-year survival rate of just 8%.
This is often due to late diagnosis, once the cancer has already spread to other parts of the body. FBL-03G’s apparent ability to target cancer cells in different areas of the body, makes it significant as a possible treatment for Pancreatic Cancer.
The research will now be carried forward into pre-clinical trials at Harvard University. It is hoped that these trials will be concluded by the end of 2020. Ngwa says, “if successfully translated clinically, this will have major impact in treatment of pancreatic cancer”.