Why study cannabis-based drugs and endometriosis?
Although there are no cannabis-specific studies in endometriosis research, the evidence that some sort of cannabinoid therapy may help the disease is promising. It has been demonstrated that the endocannabinoid system plays a critical role in the development and progression of endometriosis, as well as the sensitivity to pain that patients experience. In addition, cannabinoids have an effect on other aspects or mechanisms that contribute to the endometriosis establishment and maintenance as well as symptoms such as: inflammation, cell proliferation and survival, neovascularization, pain and nausea.
- Inflammation – Inflammation plays a major role in endometriosis. Hormone and endocannabinoids imbalances may contribute to excess inflammation, which is associated with pain and cramping. Cannabis compounds are potent anti-inflammatory agents. THC may influence the expression of genes that ultimately control inflammation, causing an anti-inflammatory reaction. Also the non-psychoactive cannabinoid CBD has well demonstrated anti-inflammatory and immuno-modulatory effects.
- Cell growth and death – The anti-tumor properties of cannabis may help treat endometriosis. It has been shown that cannabis have an anti-proliferative effect in cancer cells. Cannabinoids may have the same effect in endometriosis as it is a disorder in which cells begin to grow and migrate in an irregular manner. It has been observed that cannabinoid treatment reduced the growth of endometrial tissue in mice models. THC has also been shown to trigger apoptosis.
- Neovascularization or new vessel formation has long been recognized as a feature of endometriosis, often clearly visible at laparoscopy. It has been shown that cannabis alters genes that produce Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) and inhibit its Pathway, thus cannabinoids might inhibit or reduce neovascularization in endometriosis patients.
- Pain – The analgesic properties of cannabis are well known. Cannabis is often used to manage chronic pain in many indications.
- Nausea – Also the anti-emetic properties of cannabis are well-known. Cannabis-like pharmaceutical drugs are already available to cancer and HIV/AIDS patients who experience intense nausea and appetite loss.
In addition to these properties, cannabis is safe and several drugs are under development of cannabinoids for different indications including epilepsy, cancer, autoimmune diseases, GVHD.