UC San Diego Health Sciences study finds how marijuana accelerates HPV-related head and neck cancer
Published - 01/22/20 - 09:00 AM | 5705 views | 67 67 comments | 23 23 recommendations | email to a friend | print

University of California San Diego School of Medicine researchers have identified the molecular mechanism activated by the presence of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — the ingredient that causes people to feel the euphoria or “high” associated with cannabis — in the bloodstream that accelerates cancer growth in patients with human papillomavirus (HPV)-positive head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

“HPV-related head and neck cancer is one of the fastest-growing cancers in the United States. While at the same time, exposure to marijuana is accelerating. This is a huge public health problem,” said Joseph A. Califano III, MD, senior author and professor and vice chief of the Division of Otolaryngology in the Department of Surgery at UC San Diego School of Medicine.

Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma is the sixth most common cancer worldwide. These cancers begin in the cells that line the mucous membranes inside the mouth, nose, and throat. Approximately 30 percent of cases of this disease are related to HPV infection, and it is these cases, in particular, that are on the rise. Califano suggested increased marijuana use may be a driving factor. 

Previous studies have linked daily marijuana exposure to an increased prevalence of HPV-related throat cancer. However, a mechanism linking cannabis exposure to increased growth of the cancer was unknown. 

Reporting in the Jan. 13, 2020 online edition of Clinical Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, researchers outline how the presence of THC in the bloodstream activates the p38 MAPK pathway, which controls programmed cell death called apoptosis. When activated, p38 MAPK prevents apoptosis from occurring, thus allowing cancer cells to grow uncontrollably.

Working with Chao Liu, MD, visiting scientist at UC San Diego and a physician at China’s Central South University, and other colleagues, Califano and team used animal and human cell lines to show that THC turns p38 MAPK on and were able to stop the growth of HPV-positive head and neck cancer by turning off the pathway.  

The team then analyzed blood samples from patients with HPV-related throat cancer who had their genomes comprehensively mapped to define activated gene pathways. Similar to the cell lines, the blood samples showed p38 MAPK activation and loss of apoptosis in tumors from patients with THC in their blood.

The authors said studies and public opinion suggestions that THC and other cannabis products have cancer-fighting properties need additional, more critical evaluation. Past studies showing anti-cancer effects of THC and other cannabinoids often used levels of THC higher than those found with recreational use, but doses used recreationally clearly activate a cancer-causing pathway said Califano.

“We now have convincing scientific evidence that daily marijuana use can drive tumor growth in HPV-related head and neck cancer,” said Califano. “Marijuana and other cannabis products are often considered benign, but it is important to note that all drugs that have benefits can also have drawbacks. This is a cautionary tale.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HPV infections are responsible for approximately 35,000 new cancer diagnoses each year in the United States. Infection is so common that nearly all men and women will get at least one type of HPV at some point in their lives. Most clear up on their own, without the person ever knowing they’ve had it.

Several vaccines are available that can prevent the majority of HPV-related cancers. The vaccines work best when they are given before a person is exposed to the virus. The CDC recommends vaccinating boys and girls age 11 to 12 years old but it can be administered as early as age 9.

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 15 percent of youth 12 to 17 years old and 47% of adults age 26 and older have used or tried marijuana.

Together, a low HPV vaccination rate and an increase in marijuana use among youth has the makings of a storm, said Califano, physician-in-chief and director of the Head and Neck Cancer Center at Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. 

Moores Cancer Center is one of only 51 National Cancer Institute-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the country and the only such center in San Diego County.

Treatment options for patients with early- or late-stage head and neck cancers include minimally invasive surgery, reconstruction and rehabilitation, proton therapy and other radiation therapy, innovative clinical trials and targeted therapy, including immunotherapy. 

The Head and Neck Cancer Center provides comprehensive care that includes counseling, education and support groups, nutrition, dental rehabilitation, speech and language therapy, and social workers to help patients through every step of the process beginning with diagnosis to support lifelong wellness. 

Califano and team are now looking at whether cannabidiol, or CBD, has a similar effect to THC. CBD is another major chemical compound found in marijuana, but does not produce the “high” and is now commonly used in various over-the-counter products, such as lotions, ointments, and edibles.

In addition, the team is investigating whether p38 MAPK can be targeted with drugs to stop HPV-related head and neck cancer from growing.

Co-authors include: Chao Liu, Sayed Sadat, Koji Ebisumoto, Akihiro Sakai, Bharat Panuganti, Shuling Ren, Yusuke Goto, Sunny Haft, Takahito Fukusumi, Mizuo Ando, Yuki Saito, Pablo Tamayo, Huwate Yeerna, William Kim, Jacqueline Hubbard, Andrew Sharabi and J. Silvio Gutkind from UC San Diego; and Theresa Guo from Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

Funding for this research came, in part, from the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research and National Institute of Health (R01 DE023347, U01CA217885, R01HG009285, R01CA121941 and P30CA023100).

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June 12, 2020
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June 10, 2020
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June 10, 2020
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Davia Akim
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June 10, 2020
Hello everyone am here to testify of how I was cured from HERPES  VIRUS, my name is David from United state I was frustrated at early stage I was having this virus because i thought that is the end of my normal living life until late last year I came across this doctor called Dr, Mohammed on website how people are testifying about his grate work on how he has been curing HERPES VIRUS, HPV, ALS CANCER LUPUS VIRUS an many more. that made me to contact him through his email address herbalcure12@gmail.com WHATSAPP/CALL  2349036036397. after some procedure  he ship the herbal medicine to me through DHL and i receive and use it about 3 weeks, ever since then i have notice a very big changes and no outbreak  any more, i completed the medication and i went for test after usage and my result was negative, i went to another lab to confirm it was still negative. i can't even believe me eyes. i am so happy today that i am free from this virus. this virus has affected my relationship, my emotions and my life. thanks to doctor Mohammed for curing me and i will always testify about your good work. please contact him for your healing .
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June 06, 2020
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June 03, 2020
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May 16, 2020
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May 15, 2020


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May 12, 2020
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May 10, 2020
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hpv cure
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May 06, 2020


I want to give a testimony on how I got cured from HPV Virus. Few months back I was having some symptoms . I went to see a doctor and many blood tests was done on me, later on I was told I had HPV . My doctor told me that there's no cure for HPV I felt bad, I went online searching for a possible cure for HPV Virus, I saw a post of Dr.CHO-CHA a herbal doctor that cured someone from HPV . I contacted him and told him how I'm feeling he said his herbal medicine can cure me. He sent me the medicine via Courier Service and I received the medicine after 3 working days after he sent it, i took the medicine as prescribed by him. Before the completion of the medication the symptoms stopped. I went to the doctor and carried out another blood test, surprisingly I was Negative. I haven't had any symptoms anymore, you can contact him no Email: (chochaherbalarenaforhealing@gmail.com)
porter troxell
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May 06, 2020
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joyce lucky
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May 05, 2020
I have been suffering from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) disease for the past one years and had constant pain, especially in my knees. During the first year,I had faith in God that i would be healed someday.This disease started circulating all over my body and i have been taking treatment from my doctor, few weeks ago i came on search on the internet if i could get any information concerning the prevention of this disease, on my search i saw a testimony of someone who has been healed from (HERPES SIMPLEX VIRUS) by this Man Dr patrick and she also gave the email address: dr.patrickherbalhome@gmail.com of this man and advise we should contact him for any sickness that he would be of help, so i wrote to Dr. patrick telling him about my (HERPES Virus) he told me not to worry that i was going to be cured!! hmm i never believed it,, well after all the procedures and remedy given to me by this man few weeks later i started experiencing changes all over me as the doctor assured me that i have cured,after some time i went to my doctor to confirmed if i have be finally healed behold it was TRUE, So friends my advise is if you have such sickness or any other at all you can email:: dr.patrickherbalhome@mail.com or whatsApp his number on 2348055367947   
Cobet Davidson
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May 04, 2020
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