Tetrahydrocannabinols: potential cannabimimetic agents for cancer therapy

Prateeksha Prateeksha, Vivek K. Sharma, Shiv M. Singh, Minaxi Sharma, Deepti Diwan, Abd El Latif Hesham, Sanjay Guleria, Quang D. Nguyen, Vijai K. Gupta, Brahma N. Singh*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
4 Downloads (Pure)


Tetrahydrocannabinols (THCs) antagonize the CB1 and CB2 cannabinoid receptors, whose signaling to the endocannabinoid system is essential for controlling cell survival and proliferation as well as psychoactive effects. Most tumor cells express a much higher level of CB1 and CB2; THCs have been investigated as potential cancer therapeutic due to their cannabimimetic properties. To date, THCs have been prescribed as palliative medicine to cancer patients but not as an anticancer modality. Growing evidence of preclinical research demonstrates that THCs reduce tumor progression by stimulating apoptosis and autophagy and inhibiting two significant hallmarks of cancer pathogenesis: metastasis and angiogenesis. However, the degree of their anticancer effects depends on the origin of the tumor site, the expression of cannabinoid receptors on tumor cells, and the dosages and types of THC. This review summarizes the current state of knowledge on the molecular processes that THCs target for their anticancer effects. It also emphasizes the substantial knowledge gaps that should be of concern in future studies. We also discuss the therapeutic effects of THCs and the problems that will need to be addressed in the future. Clarifying unanswered queries is a prerequisite to translating the THCs into an effective anticancer regime.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)823-845
Number of pages23
JournalCancer and Metastasis Reviews
Issue number3
Early online date25 Jan 2023
Publication statusPrint publication - Sept 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.


  • Angiogenesis
  • Antitumor
  • Cannabimimetic properties
  • Cannabinoid receptors
  • Cannabis
  • Metastasis
  • Tetrahydrocannabinols
  • Cannabinoids/pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms/drug therapy
  • Receptors, Cannabinoid
  • Endocannabinoids


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