Cannabis components are able to destroy cancer cells and hold the potential to offer drug treatments to sufferers, a study has found.
Researchers at St George's, University of London, have found non-hallucinogenic cannabinoids are effective anti-cancer drugs.
Previously, scientists had recognised that tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the main hallucinogenic component of cannabis, has anti-cancer properties.
However, there has been little research into other compounds derived from the drug.
Study leader Wai Liu looked at cannabis derived compounds, known as cannabinoids, to see if any had anti-cancer properties against leukaemia.
Of the six cannabinoids studied, all demonstrated anti-cancer properties as effective as THC. They also found the anti-cancer effects increased when combined with each other.
"This study is a critical step in unpicking the mysteries of cannabis as a source of medicine," Liu said. "The cannabinoids examined have minimal, if any, hallucinogenic side effects, and their properties as anti-cancer agents are promising.
"These agents are able to interfere with the development of cancerous cells, stopping them in their tracks and preventing them from growing. In some cases, by using specific dosage patterns, they can destroy cancer cells on their own."
The researchers now plan to examine the cannabinoids in combination with existing cancer treatments to find ways to make therapies more efficient.
"Used in combination with existing treatment, we could discover some highly effective strategies for tackling cancer.
"Significantly, these compounds are inexpensive to produce and making better use of their unique properties could result in much more cost effective anti-cancer drugs in future."