Cannabidiol Induces Cell Death in Human Lung Cancer Cells and Cancer Stem Cells


Hussein Hamad and Birgitte Brinkmann Olsen

Published in Pharmaceuticals

November 2021



Currently, there is no effective therapy against lung cancer due to the development of resistance. Resistance contributes to disease progression, recurrence, and mortality. The presence of so-called cancer stem cells could explain the ineffectiveness of conventional treatment, and the development of successful cancer treatment depends on the targeting also of cancer stem cells. Cannabidiol (CBD) is a cannabinoid with anti-tumor properties. However, the effects on cancer stem cells are not well understood. The effects of CBD were evaluated in spheres enriched in lung cancer stem cells and adherent lung cancer cells. We found that CBD decreased viability and induced cell death in both cell populations. Furthermore, we found that CBD activated the effector caspases 3/7, increased the expression of pro-apoptotic proteins, increased the levels of reactive oxygen species, as well as a leading to a loss of mitochondrial membrane potential in both populations. We also found that CBD decreased self-renewal, a hallmark of cancer stem cells. Overall, our results suggest that CBD is effective against the otherwise treatment-resistant cancer stem cells and joins a growing list of compounds effective against cancer stem cells. The effects and mechanisms of CBD in cancer stem cells should be further explored to find their Achilles heel.

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DOI: 10.3390/ph14111169



Hamad, H., & Olsen, B. B. (2021). Cannabidiol Induces Cell Death in Human Lung Cancer Cells and Cancer Stem Cells. Pharmaceuticals, 14(11), 1169.