Is there a link between the endocannabinoid system, cruciferous vegetables, and cancer? We already know that cruciferous vegetables protect the human organism from several cancer types. Cruciferous vegetables contain glucosinolates that appear to have anti-cancer properties inhibiting cancer cell spread. Past studies mentioned that regular intake of leafy green vegetables reduced the risk of breast, lung, colon, bladder, and prostate cancer.
Recent studies speculate that cruciferous vegetables, among which cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli, kale, bok choy, etc, contain a compound, 3,3 diindolylmethane (DIM), known to have anti-cancer properties expressed through the endocannabinoid system, and specifically through CB2 receptor. Diindolylmethane is an organic compound known for its anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer properties to the human body, regulating hormone metabolism and inhibiting the growth and spread of cancer cells.
Endocannabinoid system and neuroreceptors
The endocannabinoid system consists of neuroreceptors CB1 and CB2, in other words, the first detected endocannabinoid receptors. CB1 cannabinoid receptors interact with the phytocannabinoid THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). This affinity has remarkable beneficial properties for the body. The CB2 receptor is a group of neuroreceptors expressed through the immune cells to the entire body, the brain, the liver, and the skin. This function contributes to less inflammation while enhancing the body’s processes. Most of the published data point out the anti-cancer effects on the human organism that have the activation of the receptor CB2 limiting cancer cells in several cancer types such as breast, prostate, and glioma. When Cannabinoid receptor CB2 is active, it seems to provoke apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancer cells reducing pathological angiogenesis, which develops over the years and is related to cancer. Other studies show that CB2 activation enhances chemotherapy and radiotherapy effectiveness. Raphael Mechoulam mentioned in his last papers that more research on the CB2 receptor is required because it has a significant role in cancer studies, autoimmune diseases, or neurological, metabolic, and psychiatric disorders.
CB2 cannabinoid receptor and function
Most of the scientific evidence highlights the anti-cancer effect offered by the activation of the CB2 receptor function. This function limits the confinement of cancer cells in various types of cancer, such as breast, prostate and brain (glioma). Regarding CB2, data show that activation of this receptor causes apoptosis (programmed cell death) of cancer cells. At the same time, it contributes to the reduction of pathological angiogenesis that develops over the years and has been linked to cancer. Other evidence shows that activation of the CB2 receptor enhances the effectiveness of chemotherapy and radiation therapy. As Raphael Mechoulam reports in his latest studies on the CB2 receptor, more studies on its function are necessary. The CB2 neuroreceptor plays a very important role in cancer research, autoimmune diseases or neurological, psychiatric and metabolic disorders.
Prostate cancer and CB2 receptor
Two studies, published at the beginning of the year (2023), focusing on the function of the cannabinoid CB2 receptor in various forms of cancer, come to be included in the already-known evidence about the endocannabinoid system.
Research published in February 2023 in the open access periodical publication International Journal of Molecular Sciences highlights the beneficial function of the CB2 receptor in cancer. The study underlines that cruciferous vegetable, such as Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cabbages, cauliflower, kale,collard greens etc,contain a substance, 3,3′ diindolylmethane (DIM), which has anti-cancer properties in the body expressed through the CB2 receptor.
DIM and cancer cells
During diindolylmethane DIM research, in two different cases of prostate cancer, the researchers noticed that this substance interacts with the CB2 receptor. This cannabinoid receptor, when activated, prevents and reduces the growth of cancer cells. It is not the first time that we find the anti-cancer properties of diindolylmethane in scientific papers. However, it is the first time that researchers have observed that the anti-cancer properties of this compound, in this case prostate cancer, arise from its binding affinity with the CB2 receptor.
This leads to the conclusion that cruciferous vegetables and several spices such as saffron yolk, black pepper, cloves, and oregano contain DIM, which is a compound that interacts with CB2. Such interaction may have beneficial properties in the body, enhancing the anti-cancer effects in the body.
DIM, cancer cells and research
These recent data add to the existing evidence of a potential therapeutic effect of the CB2 receptor. An earlier study published in the scientific journal Cancer Research reports that activation of the CB2 cannabinoid receptor reduced the expression of genes involved in the proliferation and survival of cancer cells. Another pilot study, reported in the journal Oncology Letters, notes that treatment with THC tetrahydrocannabinol and CBD cannabidiol reduced significantly prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels. The participants of the research were patients with castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC).
Colorectal cancer and endocannabinoid system
Concerning colorectal cancer research (colon cancer, large intestine cancer), the link to the endocannabinoid system and the cannabinoid receptor, CB2, the data available so far are controversial, without reaching yet to any concrete conclusions. Some studies highlight the anti-cancer effects deduced by the activation of the CB2 receptor and other scientific papers report the exact opposite. However, more recent research concludes that CB2 function should be re-examined
What do the scientific papers report?
A study published in February 2023 in the International Journal of Molecular Sciences concluded that the CB2 cannabinoid receptor protects the body from the development of colorectal cancer. As the researchers explain, the activation of endogenous CB2 contributes to the regulation of the immune response by reducing the growth of cancer cells.
The same research reports that both in osteoporosis and in various forms of cancer, the active function of CNR2/CB2 had beneficial properties enhancing the health of the individual.
Additionally, earlier published studies reported that activating the CB2 receptor reduced the growth and spread of colon cancer by 50%. Scientific papers underline that the greater the function of the cannabinoid receptor CB2 is, the better the results the scientists collect on inhibiting the disease.
When we refer to disorders of the body’s functions and the possible treatments, then the more data researchers collect, the more valid conclusions they will be able to reach regarding the treatment of diseases or conditions. Activation of the CB2 receptor in other cases has beneficial properties, as we saw above, but there is also evidence, such as for lung cancer, that it has the opposite effects than desired. However, one thing is certain that research on cannabinoids and the endocannabinoid system needs to be continued and expanded, as the potential benefits are many.