In the study, researchers identified that two specific cell receptors called CB2 and GPR55 helped the drug to fight cancer.Brett Levin/Flickr

Certain compounds found in marijuana can slow down tumour growth, indicates a study by a team of researchers from UK and Spain.

Samples of human cancer cells were used to induce tumour in mice and found that an active compound in marijuana called THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) was highly effective in shrinking tumours.

Though Marijuana is popular for its anti-cancer properties, the exact mechanism that led to this occurrence has been a mystery still.

"THC, the major active component of marijuana, has anti-cancer properties," Dr Peter McCormick, from the University of East Anglia, said in a press release. "This compound is known to act through a specific family of cell receptors called cannabinoid receptors. However, it was unclear which of these receptors were responsible for the anti-tumour effects of THC."

The researchers identified that two specific cell receptors called CB2 and GPR55 helped the drug to fight cancer. Dr McCormick expected that their discovery could help improve cancer treatment.

"By identifying the receptors involved, we have provided an important step towards the future development of therapeutics that can take advantage of the interactions we have discovered to reduce tumour growth," he said.

However, researchers cautioned cancer patients against self-medicating. "Cancer patients should not use cannabis to self-medicate," Dr McCormick warned, "but I hope that our research will lead to a safe synthetic equivalent being available in the future."

The study has been published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

Though use of marijuana has been a topic of controversy, several studies across the world have exposed its medicinal effects.

Following are some research-proven health benefits of medical marijuana:

  • Helps manage morning sickness associated with pregnancy
  • Treats Glaucoma
  • Prevents depression, anxiety
  • Prevents Epilepsy
  • Slows down progression of the brain disease, Alzheimer's
  • Helps improve appetite in AIDS patients
  • Improves quality of life in patients with rheumatoid arthritis

However, excess or regular use of marijuana can interfere with the normal functioning of some important brain regions, causing severe side-effects.

In December last year, a Northwestern University study found that youngsters who smoked marijuana regularly for three years had an abnormal brain structure and poor working memory. The damage persisted even two years after discontinuing the habit. The study also found a link between the marijuana-related brain abnormalities and the mental disorder schizophrenia.

In another study reported in the Journal of Neuroscience in April, researchers found that recreational use of marijuana was associated with abnormalities in brain regions responsible for emotion and motivation.