Tag Archives: mice

Marijuana improves effectiveness of radiation in treating some forms of cancer

Short post today about a paper that came out at the end of 2014 on how some of the compounds in marijuana might play a role in cancer treatment.

This is marijuana.

Medicinal marijuana is thought to help seizures and pain, but is generally used more to treat symptoms than to treat diseases directly.

Nevertheless, there is growing evidence that marijuana may actually be helpful in the treatment of some diseases directly.

Scott et al. (2014) showed that two compounds found in marijuana, tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), can increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to radiation therapy in the context of mice with glioma, a very aggressive cancer that has very poor long-term survival rates in humans. THC was best administered as a botanical drug substance, while CBD was best administered in a pure form.

These are mice.

There is a big hole in our knowledge of marijuana use in medical treatment. That will probably not change soon unless its current classification as a Schedule I drug is changed. Schedule I means that it’s extremely difficult for scientists to even do research on a substance. The current lack of support by the FDA is cited as due to a lack of high quality research on the topic, yet the classification means that it’s unlikely there will be much high quality research anytime soon. Kind of a silly catch-22, especially when highly-addictive narcotic-type drugs like hydromorphone, oxycodone, fentanyl are Schedule II and prescribed by doctors constantly.

For the record, I don’t have a strong opinion either way about legalization for recreational use, but I think that the government preventing scientific research on a potentially effective treatment is unfortunate.


Scott, KA, Dalgleish, AG, Liu, WM (2014) The combination of cannabidiol and d9 – tetrahydrocannabinol enhances the anticancer effects of radiation in an orthotopic murine glioma model. Mol. Cancer Ther. 13 (12): 2955-2967


A mitochondrial hormone that’s apparently a critical regulator of metabolism has been discovered

A new paper just came out in Cell Metabolism that is really cool for a couple reasons.

Lee et al. (2015) found that a hormone produced by mitochondria, parts of our cells that are important in metabolism and have their own DNA. They called the hormone MOTS-c.

Hormones, remember from earlier posts, are just signaling molecules that circulate in our cells and bodies and have important biological effects.

This discovery is especially cool for a couple reasons.

The first is that although we know that mitochondria are really important in metabolism, we don’t really know much about signaling molecules that are actually produced by our mitochondria.

The second is that the hormone appears to be really conserved among all mammals. This is often seen for hormones whose purpose is so specific, important, and widespread that its difficult for the hormone to even evolve. Insulin is another example of a hormone that is very conserved among mammals.

A final reason why this discovery is so cool is that MOTS-c seems to have really important effects on metabolism. It’s action activates AMPK. AMPK is another really important signaling molecule that we understand much more about. For now, its just important to know that AMPK regulates fat metabolism, and it looks like treatment with MOTS-c actually prevents obesity and insulin resistance in mice.

Maybe this represents a future treatment for obesity and diabetes? It’s actually quite strange to think that someday we might understand endocrinology well enough to regulate weight and even to some extent processes like aging by simply hormone injections without the current negative consequences that generally accompany these approaches.

That day is not yet here, so I’m gonna go hit the gym.

Lee, C., Zeng, J., Brew, B.G., Sallam, T., Martin-Montalvo, A., Wan, J., Kim, S., Mehta, H., Hevener, A.L., de Cabo, R., Cohen, P. (2015) The mitochondrial-derived peptide MOTS-c promotes metabolic homeostasis and reduces obesity and insulin resistance. Cell Metabolism 21, 443-454.