Researchers have found that the cannabis flavonoid FBL-03G molecule has shown to increase the survival rate of animals suffering from pancreatic cancer.

Flavonoids exist in all plants and contribute to many of the health benefits of eating fruits, veggies, and other natural foods many purposes, including providing their vibrant color. The ones found only in cannabis are known as cannaflavins. Recently, researchers are shifting their attention to studying flavonoids and how to unlock their vast potential as medicines.

A pancreatic cancer diagnosis is a gloomy outlook for both humans and pets. Survival rates hardly exceed 5% percent within 5 years of diagnosis. Treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation therapy are particularly ineffective at stopping the cancer from spreading.

The American Cancer Society estimates about 57,000 people will face a pancreatic cancer diagnosis this year. A majority of patients will die from the disease.

How can cannabis flavonoid FBL-03G help those with Pancreatic cancer?

“The most significant conclusion is that tumor-targeted delivery of flavonoids, derived from cannabis, enabled both local and metastatic tumor cell death, significantly increasing survival from pancreatic cancer. This has major significance, given that pancreatic cancer is particularly refractory to current therapies,” stated Wilfred Ngwa, Ph.D., an assistant professor at Harvard and one of the study’s researchers.

Scientists have long known about the therapeutic potential of cannabis flavonoids but nothing has been done until recently. One reason is that flavonoids make up approximately 0.14% of the plant. Researchers would need large fields of cannabis to be grown in order to extract sufficient amounts of FBL-03G.

We were quite surprised that the drug could inhibit the growth of cancer cells in other parts of the body, representing metastasis, that were not targeted by the treatment. This suggests that the immune system is involved as well, and we are currently investigating this mechanism. The significance of that is that, because pancreatic cancer is often diagnosed in later stages, once it has spread, and the flavonoids seem to be capable of killing other cancer cells, it may mean the life expectancy of those with the condition could increase.

Wilfred Ngwa, Ph.D.
pancreatic cancer
Illustration of pancreatic therapy approach using non-cannabinoid cannabis derivative, FBL-03G. (A) Currently used commercially-available inert radiotherapy biomaterials e.g., fiducial (CIVCO Medical)/beacons used during radiotherapy to ensure geometric accuracy (B) smart radiotherapy biomaterials (SRB) with FDA approved polymer component loaded with FBL-03G; (C) potential clinical translation pathway is envisioned where the SRBs could simply replace the inert biomaterials (in A). Such replacement would come at no additional inconvenience to cancer patients. Once in place, the SRBs can be activated by tumor microenvironment to sustainably release FLB-03G as the polymer component degrades for greater effective tumor cell kill, potentially with or without

FBL-03G caused a major increase in cancer cell death

In the study, the researchers looked at the effects of the cannabis flavonoid FBL-03G on two pancreatic cancer models. They conducted both in vitro and in vivo tests. 

In vitro, FBL-03G caused a major increase in cancer cell death when used alongside radiotherapy treatments. And in vivo, in animal models, FBL-03G delayed tumor growth and the spread of the cancer.

When researchers duplicated the trial, they observed a “notable increase in survival for animals with pancreatic cancer” compared with the animals that didn’t get the flavonoid treatments.

With current therapy choices falling short, new treatment options are urgently needed. FBL-03G along with other flavonoids might just be the key to unlocking the benefits of cannabis in cancer treatment.

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