The survival rate of head and neck cancer has only improved slightly over the last quarter century, raising the need for novel therapies to better treat this disease. This research examined the anti-tumor effects of 24 different types of cannabis extracts on head and neck cancer cells. Type III decarboxylated extracts with high levels of Cannabidiol (CBD) were the most effective in killing cancer cells. From these extracts, the specific active molecules were recognized. Combining CBD with Cannabichromene (CBC) in a 2:1 ratio made the effect even stronger. These findings can help doctors match cannabis extracts to treat head and neck cancer. CBD extracts enriched with the non-psychoactive CBC can offer patients more effective treatment. Further research is needed to develop new topical treatments from such extracts.
Cannabis sativa plants have a wide diversity in their metabolite composition among their different chemovars, facilitating diverse anti-tumoral effects on cancer cells. This research examined the anti-tumoral effects of 24 cannabis extracts representative of three primary types of chemovars on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). The chemical composition of the extracts was determined using High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) and Mass Spectrometry (MS). The most potent anti-tumoral extracts were type III decarboxylated extracts, with high levels of Cannabidiol (CBD). We identified extract 296 (CAN296) as the most potent in inducing HNSCC cell death via proapoptotic and anti-proliferative effects. Using chemical fractionation of CAN296, we identified the CBD fraction as the primary inducer of the anti-tumoral activity. We succeeded in defining the combination of CBD with cannabichromene (CBC) or tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) present in minute concentrations in the extract, yielding a synergic impact that mimics the extract’s full effect. The cytotoxic effect could be maximized by combining CBD with either CBC or THC in a ratio of 2:1. This research suggests using decarboxylated CBD-type extracts enriched with CBC for future preclinical trials aimed at HNSCC treatment.