Researchers have found cannabinoid-derived compounds have the potential to function as anti-cancer agents against melanoma cells, giving hope to patients diagnosed with one of the most deadly skin cancers.

A team from the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Charles Darwin University and the University of Western Australia found the in-vitro anti-cancer effects of a specific extract from cannabis sativa – PHEC-66 – forced melanoma cells into a programmed cell death or apoptosis.

Biotechnologist and co-author of the study Dr Nazim Nassar told the ABC: “We know today how this extract attaches to the receptor on the cell surface, and changes the messages to the inside of the cell to manipulate the normal growth… to force it to go into [a] death progress.”

According to the study, there are limited treatment options for advanced melanomas, with fewer than 15% of patients surviving beyond three years. And while melanoma accounts for around six per cent of skin cancers, it was the cause of more than 80% of related skin cancer deaths.

However, Dr Nassar warned there is some way to go before a new cannabis-based treatment is available to patients.

He said: “Before we take this to human trials, we have to go through animal trials, we have to make sure that these products are safe and effective.

“And more importantly, we need to find the way to deliver [PHEC-66] directly to the cell. Probably here we’re looking at something topical or subcutaneous under the skin that will deliver the medicine directly to the target cells.”

The research, published in the journal Cells, was partly funded by MGC Pharmaceuticals.

Prior to launching Cannabiz, Martin was co-founder and CEO of Asia-Pac’s leading B2B media and marketing information brand Mumbrella, overseeing its sale to Diversified Communications in 2017. A journalist...

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