The road from the experimental lab to the pharmacy counter is long and full of obstacles, but if research into synthetic cannabinoids keeps up this pace, anything is possible
Cancer patients have always been at the forefront of movement for medical marijuana, as they stand to gain the most from liberalization of antiquated laws governing this field. Over the years, both natural marijuana and THC-based tablets have become indispensible for easing the burden of cancer treatment, helping patients deal with pain and other unpleasant symptoms. Still, medical marijuana movement is struggling to gain worldwide support and many patients are denied this outlet, which necessitates the search for alternative solutions that would stay within the legal boundaries.
Artificially produced compounds that display the ability to imitate behaviour of THC within the human organism are collectively known as synthetic cannabinoids. Chemicals from this group (for example 5F-PB22 or THJ-018) bind for central CB1 and peripheral CB2 receptorsand stimulate human brain in similar vain to natural marijuana, even though they may be structurally different to THC. In fact, the most potent synthetic cannabinoids have no chemical connection to THC at all and are grouped in this class solely because of their pharmacology. That also means each new compound must be validated as safe for medical use, since few parallels can be drawn between natural and synthetic cannabinoids. A short list of currently available substancessuitable for medical research can be found at all major online stores.
Research aimed at understanding key properties of artificial cannabinoids is intensifying, driven by increased availability of new compounds and glaring need for effective cancer medications. Given the number of top-level researchers who are becoming interested in this field, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see a few radical breakthroughs sooner than expected. Of course, nobody thinks that synthetic cannabinoids alone can eradicate cancer, but even a marginal advancement means a lot to those who suffer from this curse daily. This especially holds true for patients situated in countries without medical marijuana programs, where any relief medication would be more than welcome.
Reasons for optimism are obvious, but the timeline of future development is nowhere near certain. General progress in synthesis of compounds with cannabinoid properties doesn’t have to translate to new discoveries on the medicinal plane and researchers have countless questions to answer about exact dosage and routes of administration. Pharmaceutical industry moves at a slow pace because mistakes can be very costly and no exceptions should be made for synthetic cannabinoids despite the urgency. Depending how the initial experiments go, it could be at least a couple of years before we see production of medications based on these innovative agents on industrial scale.
After waiting for so long, cancer patients shouldn’t be denied their right to effective medication for any longer. Development of new cannabinoid drugs can be accelerated if governments and major scientific institutions stand behind this effort and provide material and logistical support needed for this objective to be realized.