Marijuana ingredient may fight brain cancer

Posted: Monday, February 28, 2000

NEW YORK (AP) - Marijuana-like drugs eradicated some brain cancers in rats and helped other animals live longer, possibly hinting at a new approach for treating the disease, researchers say.

But brain cancer experts said they aren't impressed.

The study dealt with gliomas, the most common category of cancer arising in the brain. Gliomas are highly lethal in people despite treatment with drugs, surgery and radiation.

The rat study was published in the March issue of the journal Nature Medicine. It was conducted by scientists at the Complutense and Autonoma universities in Madrid, Spain.

They injected glioma cells into the brains of rats to produce tumors. Untreated rats died within 18 days.

Other rats were treated with drug infusions for seven days through a tube leading to the tumor. Fifteen rats got infusions of THC, the main active component in marijuana. Tumors disappeared in three animals, and nine other rats outlived the untreated ones, surviving up to 35 days.

When researchers used a different but similar drug, five of 15 rats became tumor-free and four others outlived untreated animals, the researchers said.

But Dr. Philip Gutin, chief of neurosurgery at the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, said other experimental therapies work better in rats. And the published paper doesn't demonstrate that the effect came from the drugs, rather that simply the infusion of liquid into the brain, he said.

Dr. Rolf Barth, who studies brain tumors at Ohio State University, called the work interesting. But he said the type of glioma cells used to create the tumors does not provide a very good mimic of the human disease.

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