Cancer research and cannabinoids

Cannabinoids: its role in the control of inflammation, emesis and dysmotility in the gastrointestinal tract

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist
@VThornleyMD

August 15, 2018

Introduction

Using medical cannabis in medical practice, one stumbles on incidental anecdotal symptoms that are relieved including effects on the gastrointestinal tract.

With the advent of cannabinoids, more and more conditions are determined to be helped with its use. This includes the conditions affecting the digestive tract. This explores the role the endocannabinoid system has in the homeostatic activities of the gut and the use of cannabinoids in maintaining this. The endocannabinoid system appears to participate in a regulatory role including maintaining motor and sensory function, maintenance of the epithelial layer and regulate the microenvironment.


Endocannabinoid system and GI motility

It appears that CB1 activation ameliorates gastrointestinal motility under normal physiologic conditions whereas the CB2 receptor seems to modulate it under abnormal conditions such as autoimmune or anti-inflammatory conditions (1).

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Endocannabinoid system and pain in the GI tract

Studies have found that there is an interconnection of the TPRV and cannabinoid receptors in affecting visceral pain from stress-related causes and from underlying pathophysiologic conditions. CB1 likely modulates the TPRV receptors causing a reduction of these receptors, whereas the CB2 receptors counteracts the pain effects of mediators of inflammation on the afferent nerves of the visceral organs (2).

Endocannabinoid system and irritable bowel syndrome

Because irritable bowel syndrome has a certain extent of inflammation, this may be a mechanism by which cannabinoids help with the process (2).

Endocannabinoid system and inflammatory conditions of the GI tract

In one study in the animal model, it was found that the endocannabinoid system has an impact the permeability of the GI tract in either a positive or negative fashion. Cannabidiol (CBD) and Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), 2 of the most well-studied phytocannabinoids, have the capacity to reverse this permeability of the GI tract that is associated with inflammation (3).


Cannabinoids and nausea

Nausea is one of the most well-known and earliest established symptom treated with cannabinoids. Nabilone which has cannabinoids has been used in treating oncologic patients undergoing chemotherapy to ameliorate the nausea that often accompanies this treatment.

In one study of 110 pediatric patients were studied between December 2010 and August 2015 using nabilone. 20% of the patients developed somnolence, euphoria was seen in 3.6% and dizziness was seen in 10%. In 83 patients with chemotherapy causing high rates of emesis, 50% had complete resolution of chemotherapy-induced vomiting. In 23 patients with chemotherapy with moderate rates of emesis, vomiting control was achieved in 53.8% (4).

Role of cannabinoids in the liver

The endicannabinoid system comprises of the CB1 and CB2 receptors, enzymes and endocannabinoids. The CB1 receptor is found to be pro-fibrinogenic in liver cirrhosis and CB2 receptor is found to be anti-fibrinogenic (5).

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This is info only not medical advice.

Reference

1.Duncan, M., Mouihate, A., Mackie, K., Keenan, C.M., Buckley, N.E., Davison, J.S., Patel, K.D., Pittman, Q.J., Sharkey, K.A. Cannabinoid CB2 receptors in the enteric nervous system modulate gastrointesintal contractility in lipopolysaccharide-treated rats. Am J Physiol Gastrointest Liver Physiol. 2008, July, 295 (1):G78-G87

2. Pesce, M., D’Alessandro, A., Borelli, O., Gigli, S., Seguella, L., Cuomo, R., Esposito, G., Sarnelli, G. Endocannabinoid-related compounds in gastrointestinal diseases. J. Cell. Mol. Med 2018, Feb., 22(2):706-715

3. Alhamorumi, A., Wright, K.L., Larvin, M., O’Sullivan, S.E. Cannabinoids mediate opposing effects on inflammation-induced intestinal permeability. Br. J. Pharmacology. 2012, Apr. 165(8):2598-2610

4. Polito, S., MacDonald, T., Romanick, M., Jupp, J., Wiernikpwski, J., Vennetilli, A., Khanna, M., Patel, P., Nin, L., Dupuis, L.L. Safety and efficacy of nabilone for acute chemotherapy-induced vomit in pediatric patients: a multicenter, retrospective review. Pedr. Blood cancer. 2018, Jul. 26:e27374

5. Dibba, P., Li, A.A., Cholankeril, G., Iqbal, U., Gadiparthi, C., Khan, M.A., Kim, D., Ahmed, A. The role of cannabinoids in the setting of cirrhosis. Medicines (Basel). 2018, Jun 9:5(2). pii E52

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synthetic cannabinoids

The fatal effects and mechanisms of synthetic cannabinoids including JWH compounds used recreationally

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist

@VThornleyMD

May 31, 2018

Introduction

Advocacy groups are well-versed and even the public is aware of the increasing popularity of medical marijuana use for medical purposes. Medical marijuana that is all organic all natural with no synthetic materials with high quality have the best-tolerated effects compared to synthetic products. However, with many research studies ongoing, there is the darker side of the equation from which the stigma first grew, its intent for recreation and subsequent abuse. Producers trying to evade the law have come up with far more potent and potentially deadly synthetic cannabinoids which escape detection through laboratory means.

There are spurts of news items regarding the increasing use of synthetic marijuana known as the street name “spice” or “K2.” It first became known in 2008 when the European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA)  identified it as dangerous synthetic cannabinoids from herbal incenses with a remarkable affinity to the CB1 and CB2 receptors which were insidiously abused. These substances were left unchecked because they were initially difficult to identify through biomarkers or testing leading scientists to urgently study these compounds (3).

Typically, presentations occur in groups of patients in the emergency room arising from a single source of distribution at a time. There can be a variety of symptoms because of admixed substances. They have arisen in popularity because they may not be detected by conventional drug testing. Synthetic cannabinoids produce more intense psychoactive effects and by the same token more intense side effects. In animal models, synthetic cannabinoids are 2-100 times more potent than tetrahydrocannabinol in terms of analgesic, anti-inflammatory, anti-seizure effects. It is also thought to be more potent for anti-cancer growth. Because of this, while the beneficial effects are more prominent, by the same token, medical and psychoactive emergencies may result due to its more intense effects through the endocannabinoid pathway. With the added effect of excessive use, this only magnifies the potentiation of effects.

This is likely also the reason why synthetic cannabinoids used medically may provide more benefit, but by the same token are less tolerated and more side effects are noted.

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JWH-018 or K2 or Spice and mechanisms

The synthetic cannabinoid “K2” or “Spice” is also known as JWH-018. Dangerous effects of K2 and other synthetic cannabinoids, because they work through the CB1 and CB2 receptors, are potentiations of the usually mild effects of phytocannabinoids from the Cannabis sativa plant. This can lead to changes in the levels of dopaminergic, serotonergic and GABAergic neurotransmitters in the system causing symptoms. There is a high affinity of synthetic cannabinoids to the CB1 receptor through which psychoactive properties of cannabinoids are manifest. It produces similar effects to delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol which is the psychoactive metabolite from the Cannabis sativa plant but is much more potent. Synthetic cannabinoid metabolites may still remain active and exerts long-lasting effects in addition to the effects of the parent compound. The CB1 receptor is predominantly found in the nervous system while the CB2 receptor is found mostly in the immune system and in other organs to a lesser extent. Synthetic cannabinoids interact with the CB1 receptor pre-synaptically which is a G-coupled protein. Synthetic cannabinoid agonists interact with the CB1 receptor and modulate voltage-gated channels that inhibit sodium, potassium and N-sodium channels and P/Q-type sodium channels thereby reducing the membrane potentials (5).

Synthetic cannabinoids were originally manufactured as a therapeutic agent to exert effects on the cannabinoid receptor.

It is extensively metabolized by cytochrome p450 and activates the cannabinoid receptors (CBR). The most significant cytochrome is CYP2C9 (1) which is found predominantly in the gastrointestinal tract and liver. CYP2C9*1 is the wild type while CYP2C9*2 and CYP2C9*3 are the more common variants. It was found that CYP2C9 *2 tended to metabolize JWH-018 3.6 times more than CYP29C*1 which is likely why there is variation in toxic effects among different individuals when abused (1).  Genetic polymorphisms may lead to potentiation of the effects.  Other synthetic cannabinoids include JWH-073, CP-47 and 497 (3).

6 other synthetic cannabinoids that have been identified

Six synthetic cannabinoids were characterized from illicit drugs including MMB- and MDMB-FUBINACA, MN-18, NNEI, CUMYL-PICA, and 5-Fluoro-CUMYL-PICA. The toxic effects include cardiotoxicity, seizures and renal damage (2).  These have greater effects compared to those of THC. The study shows that synthetic cannabinoids are being manufactured and used as substitutes for THC with greater effects and potentiation (2).

There are hundreds of other synthetic cannabinoids that have been identified.

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Dangerous side effects of synthetic cannabinoids

Synthetic cannabinoids affect the gastrointestinal and neuropsychiatric systems and additionally can cause cardiogenic effects. Adverse effects include tachycardia, chest pain, myocardial ischemia, hypertension, confusion, agitation, hallucination, seizures, cerebrovascular vasoconstriction, stroke, and nausea. There have been other reports involving arrhythmias, psychosis, memory loss, cognitive impairment and even fatality (5).

In one study of 141 patients, there were atypical symptoms of psychomotor retardation, hypotension, bradycardia. 75% of blood samples had possibly XLR-11. 24 urine sample came back positive for synthetic cannabinoids, 74% had XLR-11, while 35% had carboxamide indazole derivatives. There were no JWH compounds, opioids, sedative-hypnotics, or imidazoline receptor agonists detected. It is not clear if there may be other undetectable psychotropic agents that may have been mixed causing the unusual symptoms not typical for cannabinoids.  In addition, these were patients that came from a nearby psychiatric facility where potentially other neuropsychotropic agents may have interacted (4).

In summary

Clinicians should recognize the clinical symptoms from synthetic cannabinoids and possible adverse side effects as it is emerging as one of the popular drugs of abuse. Once it was discovered there was a ban on synthetic cannabinoids decreasing the wide usage but there has since been a resurgence. They potentiate their pharmacologic effects at the CB1 receptor 2-100 times that of tetrahydrocannabinol but by the same token may cause medical and psychiatric emergencies.

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References

  1. Patton, et al, “Altered metabolism of synthetic cannabinoid JWH-018 by human cytochrome p4502C9 and variants,” Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun., 2018, Apr., 6, 498 (3):597-602.
  2. Gamage, et al, “Molecular and behavioral pharmacological characterization of abused synthetic cannabinoids MMB- and MDMB-FUBINACA, MN-18, NNEI, CUMYL-PICA, and 5-Fluoro-CUMYL-PICA,” J. Pharmacol. Exp. Ther., 2018, May, 365(2):437-446.
  3. Brents, et al, “The K2/spice phenomenon: emergence, identification, legislation and metabolic characterization of synthetic cannabinoids in herbal incense products.” Drug Metab. Rev., 2014, Feb., 46(1):72-85.
  4. Sud, et al, “Retrospective chart review of synthetic cannabinoid intoxication with toxicologic analysis,” West J. Emerg. Med., 2018, May, 19(3):567-572. doi: 10.5811/westjem.2017.12.36968
  5. Castaneto, et al, “Synthetic cannabinoids: epidemiology, pharmacodynamics and clinical implications,” Drug Alcohol Depend., 2014, Nov., 1:12-41

 

 

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schizophrenia

Cannabidiol may treat psychosis while tetrahydrocannabinol can induce schizophrenia in those susceptible  

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist

@VThornleyMD

May 6, 2018

Introduction

There is a well-known correlation of use of cannabis whether it is medical or recreational to the onset of schizophrenia. It unclear if this could be to a direct correlation and disinhibition of the genetic component or the behavior of using it is a prodrome leading up to schizophrenia. This review seeks to elucidate the mechanisms in the correlation of the use of cannabis and onset of schizophrenia.

Mechanisms related to the underlying genetic composition

Schizophrenia may be linked when some of the normal pathways become disrupted with an introduction of THC.  There are 4 genes that were described after a lifetime use of cannabis including KCNT2 which were THC responsive, NCAM1 and CADM2 are significant in functioning in post-synapse. With THC in the system, there are more post-synaptic density genes (1).

Mechanisms related to other neurotransmitter pathways influenced by cannabinoids

In one study, because of the alarming rate of potent synthetic cannabis used recreationally which was found to leave long-lasting schizophrenia disorder in recreational users, this has accelerated research into the pathophysiology. Because cannabinoids work on the CB1 receptor, it is likely that it plays a modulatory role on the other neurotransmitters that can give rise to schizophrenia including dopaminergic, glutamatergic and serotonergic pathways. These pathways are well-established as playing a role in a pro-psychotic state. High efficacy synthetic cannabinoids which are manufactured for recreational purposes are highly more potent compared to natural organic cannabinoids and there is an alarming increase in the correlation of schizophrenia in these users (2).

In one study it is thought to be due to the hypofunctioning of the glutamate system which is directly affected by THC. Exposure to tetrahydrocannabinol appears to reduce the activity at the level of the glutamate receptor as well as deregulate genes for synaptic function(1).

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Susceptibility is related to the development of schizophrenia

In one animal model, the set-up tried to mimic a more real state seen where not all adolescents exposed to synthetic cannabinoids react by developing schizophrenia, there are some studies where all animals develop schizophrenia with exposure. In this animal model, they provided a model that resembles the human model more closely and found that exposure to synthetic cannabinoids in schizophrenia-prone animals caused hyperfunctioning of dopaminergic pathways compared to the control group who were not susceptible at the same dosages. There may be underlying genetic or environmental factors that cause certain individuals to become more prone (2).

THC can cause anxiety and behavioral disorders but can be prevented with CBD

In one animal study, it was found in a rat study that THC can induce anxiety and behavioral disorders. With THC  administration object recognition was impaired in adolescent rates. The studies support effect on the developing brain in relation to cognitive impairment in the animal model. In addition, when rats were exposed to THC there was increased marble burying behavior which in scientific research is thought to signify anxiety or obsessive-compulsive type behavior usually ameliorated with serotonin reuptake inhibitors or benzodiazepines(4).

It was found, however, that a combination of CBD and THC or cannabidiol alone was administered, these behaviors were not produced or produced only minimally. The thought is that CBD is an allosteric competitive inhibitor at the CB1 receptor so that one sees less of the toxic undesirable effects of THC if administered alone (4).

Cannabinoids have a similar profile to atypical anti-psychotics and may be a possible adjunctive treatment in the treatment of psychotic events (5).

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In summary

There is historical evidence that exposure to THC can give rise to schizophrenia in those individuals that are susceptible accounting for the fact that it does not happen to everybody exposed to it. This is related to its influence on serotonergic, dopaminergic and glutamate pathways. THC can induce anxiety, repetitive behaviors which are ameliorated by CBD. CBD may be a useful adjunctive treatment for psychotic disorders. However, the elucidated mechanisms are based on scientific research based on animal models which may not translate into humans.

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References

  1. Guennewig, et al, “THC exposure of human iPSC neurons impacts genes associated with neuropsychiatric disorder,” Transl. Psychiatry, 2018, Apr., 8(1):89.
  2. Fantegrossi, et al, “Pro-psychotic effects of synthetic cannabinoids: interactions with central dopamine, serotonin and glutamate systems, Drug Metab. Review, 2018, Jan, 50(1)
  3. Aguilar, et al, “Adolescent synthetic cannabinoid exposure produces enduring changes in dopamine neuron activity in the rodent model of schizophrenia,” Int. J. Neurpsychopharmacol., 2018, Apr., 31 (4):393-403.
  4. Murphy, et al, “Chronic adolescent delta9-tetrahydrocannabinol treatment of male mice leads to long-term cognitive behavioral dysfunction which is prevented by concurrent cannabidiol treatment,” Cannabis Cannabinoid Res., 2017, 2(1):235-246.
  5. Deiana, et al, “Medical use of cannabis: a new light for schizophrenia?” Drug Test Analysis, 2013, Jan., (5)1:46-51
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medical marijuana

A review of mechanisms in medical marijuana: the endocannabinoid pathway, receptors, tetrahydrocannabinol, and cannabidiol 

Virginia Thornley, M.D., Neurologist, Epileptologist

@VThornleyMD

April 28, 2018

Introduction

The Cannabis sativa plant has been known since the beginning of time. It can be traced back 5000 years ago when it was first known to man to alleviate common complaints. It came into the American pharmacopeia in the 19th century then abolished in the 1930’s, likely not coincidentally as the era of prohibition was lifted. It is known to treat ailments such as chronic pain and migraine. In the middle ages, it was used to treat headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, bacterial infections and pain from rheumatological conditions. It was previously known for its psychoactive properties.  It is recently making a resurgence in popularity regarding its medical value. The issue is a topic of hot debate as state laws are at odds with federal laws. Currently, as of April 2018, it is still recognized as a category 1 drug, meaning it is not officially proclaimed to have any medical value despite the long rich history of treating medical symptoms. It is lumped in with other drugs of abuse such as heroin and cocaine.

Background on the Cannabis sativa plant and their metabolites

The Cannabis sativa plant is abundantly rich in phytocannabinoids, the most commonly known and used for its therapeutic value are cannabidiol and tetrahydrocannabinol. The endocannabinoid pathway is comprised of receptors that are coupled with G proteins and cannabinoids (1). In the Cannabis sativa plant, there are 80 phytocannabinoids that can bind to a cannabinoid receptor.

There are 8 major cannabinoids including cannabigerolic acid, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabolinic acid A, cannabidiolic acid A, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabigerol, cannabidiol, cannabichromene, and tetrahydrocannabivarin in the different strains of Cannabis sativa (1).

Ehlsoly, et al, classified it into 11 categories: cannabigerol, cannabichromene, cannabidiol, ∆9-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol, ∆8-trans-tetrahydrocannabinol, cannabicyclol, cannabielsoin, cannabinol, cannabinodiol, cannabitriol, and miscellaneous. ∆9 -trans-tetrahydrocannabinol , cannabinol, and cannabidiol are the most well-studied and well-known.

Cannabidiol is extracted from the hemp portion of the plant considered a male part of the plant, there are no psychoactive properties in cannabidiol. Psychoactivity is defined as anything above 0.3% of THC. Tetrahydrocannabinol is derived from the female portion of the plant, particularly the flowers. Conditions are such that in nurseries only a certain amount of sunlight is given to the plants so that specific strains can be grown. Some plants will be richer in cannabidiol, others will be more THC pure and other swill have an equal amount of CBD and THC but it depends on how the plants are grown and under what conditions.

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Endocannabinoid pathway

It is through the endocannabinoid pathway that one gets the sense of well being after exercise or eating chocolate. It is not through endorphins, serotonin or noradrenergic neurotransmitters as they are too large to cross the blood-brain barrier. Tetrahydrocannabinol acts as a mimetic of Anandamide while cannabidiol acts as a mimetic of 2-Arachidinoylglyerol (or 2-AG). The endocannabinoid system works through cannabinoids, the receptors, transporters, and enzymes.

Receptors

The phytocannabinoids work on cannabinoid receptors. The endocannabinoid system is mediated by 3 parts: the cannabinoids, the cannabinoid receptors, and the enzymes. The receptors are of 2 types, CB1 which is found primarily in the nervous system especially in the areas that subserve pain modulation, memory and movement. The CB2 receptor is more peripherally found specifically in the immune system. The CB2 receptor is found to a lesser extent in other organs including tissues of reproduction, pituitary, heart, lungs, adrenal and gastrointestinal systems.  Cannabinoids also react with the TRPV receptor or the transient receptor cation channel subfamily V. They can also act on G receptors including GPR55 thought to be significant in controlling seizures. Other receptors include GPR12, GPR18, and GPR119 (2).

Tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol and their effect on receptors

THC and CBD are the most well-known and well-studied. THC has psychoactive properties and works as a partial agonist on the CB1 receptor and the CB2 receptor. Cannabidiol which has no psychoactive properties works as an antagonist on CB1/CB2 receptor and an agonist on the CB1 and CB2 receptor. Rather than decreasing the effects of THC, it works in a synergistic manner in combination with THC. It potentiates the THC effects by increasing the CB1 densities. CBD increases vanilloid pain receptors, reduces metabolism and reduces re-uptake of anandamide, THC’s mimetic component. Other studies suggest CBD acts as an indirect agonist by interacting with the CB1 receptor so there are less psychoactive symptoms from THC when the two are combined.

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Pharmacokinetics of tetrahydrocannabinol

Regardless of the way of taking it, the protein binding and the and volume of distribution are not affected by the route of taking it. Pharmacokinetics of creams and vaporizers are unclear. Smoking THC appears to exert an effect within minutes of intake and bioavailability is variable depending upon the extent of inhalation ranging between 2-69%. The effect is within minutes. Half-life increases with each inhalation at 2 puffs inhaled for THC it is 1.9 hours and 5.3 hours in CBD at 8 inhalations it is 5.2 hours in THC and 9.4 hours in CBD at a dosage of 5.4mgTHC/5.0mg CBD and 21.5mg THC/20 mg CBD respectively.

Oral routes may seem to be safer but have more adverse effects including GI symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Oral mucosal absorption is rapid within 15 minutes to 60 minutes. Oral tablets are lower in the rate of absorption at about 0.6 to 2.5 hours. The rate of elimination, when taken orally, is biphasic, initially occurring at 4 hours then 24-38 hours after ingestion.

In summary

There is much research ongoing on the mechanisms underlying the medical value of medical marijuana. It is now thought that cannabigerolic acid may have medicinal properties as well. So far, the most well-known and well studied are delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol and cannabidiol. Most likely as research continues, greater value will likely be attributed towards the phytocannabinoids.

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References

  1. Wang, et al, “Quantitative Determination of delta 9-tetrahydrocannabinol, CBG, CBD, their acid precursors and five other neutral cannabinoids by UHPLC-UV-MS,” Planta. Med, 2019, mar., 84 (4):260-266.
  2.  Landa, et al, “Medical cannabis in the treatment of cancer pain and spastic conditions and options of drug delivery in clinical practice,”Biomed. Pap. Med. Fac. Univ. Palacky Olomouc Czech Repub., 2018, Mar; 162(1):18-25.
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