Anti-Cancer and Anti-Proliferative Potential of Cannabidiol: A Cellular and Molecular Perspective

Manamele Dannies Mashabela, Abidemi Paul Kappo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cannabinoids, the bioactive compounds found in Cannabis sativa, have been used for medicinal purposes for centuries, with early discoveries dating back to the BC era (BCE). However, the increased recreational use of cannabis has led to a negative perception of its medicinal and food applications, resulting in legal restrictions in many regions worldwide. Recently, cannabinoids, notably Δ9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) and cannabidiol (CBD), have gained renewed interest in the medical field due to their anti-cancer properties. These properties include the inhibition of tumour growth and cell invasion, anti-inflammatory effects, and the induction of autophagy and apoptosis. As a result, the use of cannabinoids to treat chemotherapy-associated side effects, like nausea, vomiting, and pain, has increased, and there have been suggestions to implement the large-scale use of cannabinoids in cancer therapy. However, these compounds’ cellular and molecular mechanisms of action still need to be fully understood. This review explores the recent evidence of CBD’s efficacy as an anti-cancer agent, which is of interest due to its non-psychoactive properties. The current review will also provide an understanding of CBD’s common cellular and molecular mechanisms in different cancers. Studies have shown that CBD’s anti-cancer activity can be receptor-dependent (CB1, CB2, TRPV, and PPARs) or receptor-independent and can be induced through molecular mechanisms, such as ceramide biosynthesis, the induction of ER stress, and subsequent autophagy and apoptosis. It is projected that these molecular mechanisms will form the basis for the therapeutic applications of CBD. Therefore, it is essential to understand these mechanisms for developing and optimizing pre-clinical CBD-based therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number5659
JournalInternational Journal of Molecular Sciences
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2024


  • CBD
  • apoptosis
  • autophagy
  • cancer
  • cannabinoids
  • cannabis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Catalysis
  • Molecular Biology
  • Spectroscopy
  • Computer Science Applications
  • Physical and Theoretical Chemistry
  • Organic Chemistry
  • Inorganic Chemistry


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