London, Nov 21 (UNI) Cannabis plant, mostly viewed in the context of drug abusers, can now be used to halt breast cancer spreading through the body, researchers say.
A compound found in the cannabis plant called cannabidiol (CBD) could be a non-toxic alternative to chemotherapy. Moreover, unlike Cannabis, CBD doesn't give users a 'high' and it is not illegal, the study suggests.
CBD works by blocking the activity of a gene called Id-1 which is believed to be responsible for the aggressive spread of cancer cells away from the original tumour site creating what are known as 'secondaries'.
Past studies have proven that CBD can block aggressive human brain cancers.
The new research found that the compound had a similar effect on breast cancer cells.
Lead researcher Sean Mc Allister of The California Pacific Medical Centre Research Institute team said chemotherapy treatments are effective but can be extremely toxic and difficult for patients.
''This compound offers the hope of a non-toxic therapy that could achieve the same results without any of the painful side effects,'' Daily Mail quoted him as saying.
Doctors stress that smoking cannabis is unlikely to be effective as sufficient quantities of CBD are not found in the leaf. They have to be extracted and are then concentrated to make a strong dose to kill cancer cells.
Scientists would be following these findings to discover if usage of CBD was safe in humans.