Introduction: Colorectal cancer (CRC) is a leading cause of cancer-related deaths worldwide, and new therapeutic strategies are still required. Here we screened a synthetic cannabinoid library to identify compounds that uniformly reduce the viability of seven CRC cell lines. Material and Methods: Seven distinct CRC cell lines were treated with 10 μM cannabinoid compounds (from a library of 370 molecules) for 48 h, and cell viability was subsequently measured with MTS assay. Dose-response curves were conducted for compounds that were found to reproducibly reduce cell viability of one or more cell lines. Results: We identified 10 compounds from the library that were able to reduce cell viability of CRC cell lines (with an IC 50 ≤ 30 μM). Of these compounds, seven were specific for CRC cells, and six were effective in all CRC cell lines tested. Treatment with traditional phytocannabinoids (THC or CBD) was either ineffective or much less potent and only partially efficacious. Treatment with antagonists for the known cannabinoid receptors (alone or in combination) failed to block the activity of the most potent of identified compounds. Conclusion: We identified three families of cannabinoid compounds that reduce CRC cell viability through a noncanonical receptor mechanism. Future modification of these compounds may lead to the development of novel therapies to treat this disease.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-281
Number of pages10
JournalCannabis and Cannabinoid Research
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2018

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Pharmacology
  • Complementary and alternative medicine
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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