Cannabinoid Signaling in Cancer

  • Subhadip Das
  • Kirti Kaul
  • Sanjay Mishra
  • Manish Charan
  • Ramesh K. GanjuEmail author
Part of the Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology book series (AEMB, volume 1162)


The family of chemical structures that interact with a cannabinoid receptor are broadly termed cannabinoids. Traditionally known for their psychotropic effects and their use as palliative medicine in cancer, cannabinoids are very versatile and are known to interact with several orphan receptors besides cannabinoid receptors (CBR) in the body. Recent studies have shown that several key pathways involved in cell growth, differentiation and, even metabolism and apoptosis crosstalk with cannabinoid signaling. Several of these pathways including AKT, EGFR, and mTOR are known to contribute to tumor development and metastasis, and cannabinoids may reverse their effects, thereby by inducing apoptosis, autophagy and modulating the immune system. In this book chapter, we explore how cannabinoids regulate diverse signaling mechanisms in cancer and immune cells within the tumor microenvironment and whether they impart a therapeutic effect. We also provide some important insight into the role of cannabinoids in cellular and whole body metabolism in the context of tumor inhibition. Finally, we highlight recent and ongoing clinical trials that include cannabinoids as a therapeutic strategy and several combinational approaches towards novel therapeutic opportunities in several invasive cancer conditions.


Cannabinoids Tumor microenvironment Signaling Metabolism 







5′ AMP-activated protein kinase




cannabinoid receptor




C-X-C motif chemokine ligand


epidermal growth factor receptor


epithelial to mesenchymal transition


endoplasmic reticulum


mammalian target of rapamycin


peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors


reactive oxygen species


tumor associated macrophages




tumor microenvironment


transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily V member 2.



This work is supported in part by the Department of Defense Level II Breakthrough Award and Pelotonia IDEA Award.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Subhadip Das
    • 1
    • 2
  • Kirti Kaul
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sanjay Mishra
    • 1
    • 2
  • Manish Charan
    • 1
    • 2
  • Ramesh K. Ganju
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of PathologyThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  2. 2.Comprehensive Cancer CenterThe Ohio State UniversityColumbusUSA

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