A compound found in marijuana might help boost the efficacy of pancreatic cancer treatment, suggests new research published in the journal Oncogene. Researchers are asserting that cannabidiol, or CBD, might boost the effects of anti-cancer drugs used to treat the disease, potentially extending patients’ lives by several years, The Guardian reports.

CBD is the non-psychoactive ingredient in marijuana, meaning it does not make people “high.” It is extracted from hemp plants and is available in many states, though state laws regarding hemp vary widely. 

For this latest study, researchers carried out experiments on cells in petri dishes and on mice whose DNA had been modified to develop pancreatic cancer. Their first aim was to determine whether the gene GPR55—which can detect cannabis-derived chemicals—is involved in the growth and multiplication of cancer cells. The team found that 26 percent of pancreatic cancer cells showed raised levels of such receptors. 

Next, researchers took the genetically modified mice and split them into four treatment groups. Ten mice were given CBD, eight were given a chemotherapy drug, seven were given both drugs and nine were given a placebo. Mice in the placebo group lived an average of 19 days with the disease. Those in the CBD group lived just over 25 days, and those in the chemo group survived an average of 28 days. However, when CBD and chemo were combined, the effect was even more dramatic. That group lived an average of almost 53 days after starting treatment.

Study authors theorized that the CBD appears to block the receptors produced by the GPR55 gene, preventing them from interacting with substances that promote the growth and spread of cancer cells in the body. They also suggested that CBD might boost the effect of drugs used to treat pancreatic cancer, leading to better survival rates for those with the disease, which kills up to 80 percent of patients within a year of diagnosis.

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