( dpa ) - The active ingredient in marijuana may suppress tumour invasion in highly invasive cancers, according to new research in Germany.
Cannabinoids, the active components in marijuana, are already used medically to reduce the side effects of cancer treatment, such as pain, weight loss and vomiting.
But the new study, published in the latest issue of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, finds that the compounds may also have an anti-cancer effect.
However, more research is needed to determine whether the laboratory results would hold true in humans, the authors wrote.
Dr Robert Ramer and Dr Burkhard Hinz of the University of Rostock in Germany investigated whether and by what mechanism cannabinoids inhibit tumour cell invasion.
Cannabinoids did suppress tumour cell invasion and stimulated the expression of TIMP-1, an inhibitor of a group of enzymes that are involved in tumour cell invasion.
"To our knowledge, this is the first report of TIMP-1-dependent anti-invasive effects of cannabinoids," the two researchers said in a joint statement.
"This signaling pathway may play an important role in the anti- metastatic action of cannabinoids, whose potential therapeutic benefit in the treatment of highly invasive cancers should be addressed in clinical trials," the authors said.