Medical Research News

The Floral Gift That Keeps on Giving

Cannabis molecular philanthropy extends beyond cannabinoids and terpenes.

Unlike mythological, allegorical stories of miracles or healers or perhaps even white magic, Cannabis sativa continues to unveil its secrets through scientific and medicinal exploration. Although the medicinal aspects of delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) might be ignored by some out of convenience or forgetfulness or just to live up to some image, they are indeed there. Even the U.S. Government agrees, and after four score years of Reefer Madness, that’s a bold and a beautiful, albeit troublesomely hypocritical statement.

And if you’ve bought something, anything lately, you’ve likely seen signage proclaiming the sale of cannabidiol (CBD) in any number of different forms. From beer stores to gun stores, these days, you can also get CBD. And why shouldn’t you be able to? The U.S. Food and Drug Administration saw enough evidence in GW Pharmaceuticals data to approve the drug for use in treating specific types of epilepsy. But you and I know the medicinal benefits of CBD don’t end there. There’s girth to its wingspan, which is rapidly wrapping itself across the Earth.

And then… there’s the organoleptically satisfying medicinal molecules embodied by the terpenes. Oh, the stories I could tell you and will. But suffice to say, for now, that these little molecules can provide a fragrant treasure chest of chemicals to better augment the efficacy of cannabinoid-based therapies, something that is being proven with each passing day.

And yet, the plant isn’t emptied of beneficial molecules after combing through the cannabinoids and terpenes. There are more molecules to be mined. There are the flavonoids.

Flavonoids might be familiar to you from other plants, just like the terpenes. For example, there’s quercetin, a common flavonoid found in flora like dill or leafy greens, or in capers, or citrus, that provides antioxidant properties. [1] Or, you may have heard of another group of flavonoids called anthocyanins, which are the wonderful pigments that cause the purple color in select cannabis cultivars but are also in other fruits like blueberries and raspberries. A recent study investigated the utility of using a derivatized flavonoid from cannabis in an evaluation of the molecule’s efficacy in treating pancreatic cancer. [2]

The outlook for those diagnosed with pancreatic cancer can be grim, as the 5-year survival rate is reported to be near 8%. Part of this is the resistance of this type of cancer to known pharmaceutical treatments. Therefore, cancer researchers are hunting for alternative methods of treatment for improving these patients’ quality of life. And like so many other conditions successfully assuaged by one or several molecules found in cannabis, this study highlighted the efficacy of FBL-03G, a derivatized form of Cannflavin B. [2]

In vitro (in a Petri dish) and in vivo (mice, in this case, not yet humans) experiments were investigated. The researchers used a polymer called poly-(lactic-co-glycolic) acid (PLGA) loaded with FBL-03G. The polymer was designed to degrade inside the body, thereby sustainably releasing FBL-03G at the site of the tumor. This complex was used in conjunction with radiotherapy, which uses radiation to kill cancer cells. [2]

The researchers witnessed tumor growth inhibition, not just at the locally treated tumor sites, but also at more distant, untreated tumors, and also with or without the radiotherapy treatment. In fact, the authors measured no “significant difference” between their flavonoid complexes when flying solo or when radiotherapy was also introduced. [2]

While these results are exciting, the next experiments the researchers want to explore are evaluating the flavonoid’s potential toxicity and better honing in on the most therapeutic dosage. Then, their work can evolve into a clinical study with humans. Additionally, at the time of the article’s publication, the mechanism by which FBL-03G acts remained unknown. The authors postulate that the sustained delivery of the flavonoid enables it to reach tumors over longer period of times. [2]

But as you well know, more research… needs to be done. Yeah, yeah, yeah. That’s what every scientist says. I know. But, it’s frustratingly true. Nonetheless, the plant philanthropist called Cannabis continues to offer its multi-pronged medicinal cornucopia in unwavering perpetuity.


[1] Williams RJ, Spencer JP, Rice-Evans C. “Flavonoids: Antioxidants or Signalling Molecules?” Free Radical Biology & Medicine, vol. 36, no. 7, 2004, pp. 838–49. [journal impact factor = 5.736; cited by 1430 (ResearchGate)] [2] Moreau, M. et al. “Flavonoid Derivative of Cannabis Demonstrates Therapeutic Potential in Preclinical Models of Metastatic Pancreatic Cancer.” Front. Oncol., vol. 9, no. 660, 2009, doi: 10.3389/fonc.2019.00660. [journal impact factor = 4.416; cited by N/A (ResearchGate)]

About the author

Jason S. Lupoi, Ph.D.

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