Wednesday Report | The Power of the Plant

THE ROYAL SOCIETY OF MEDICINE Talk 14th May, 2019

The exclusive talk hosted by Technion UK, presented by Professor Dedi Meiri, the pioneer medical cannabis expert.

Technion UK is a leading British organisation promoting education, science and technology through the support of Technion – Israel Institute of Technology. Technion Institute is the oldest university in Israel and is a leading centre of scientific and high-tech research. Eighty percent of Israel’s engineers are trained at the Technion.

PROFESSOR DEDI MEIRI

Dedi Meiri, PhD, is Associate Professor at the Faculty of Biology at the Technion and a member of the Technion Integrated Cancer Center (TICC). Dr Meiri holds a M.Sc. in Biochemistry and a Ph.D. in plant biotechnology from Tel Aviv University. 

He conducted his post-doctoral fellowship at the Ontario Cancer Institute where he focused on tumour invasion and metastasis. During his post-doctoral studies, he expanded his knowledge in human biology and cancer pathogenesis and gained worldwide recognition as an expert in the fields of G-protein coupled receptors (GPCRs), small GTPases and cytoskeleton. 

Upon completion of his post-doctoral fellowship, Dr Meiri took a position at the Technion Israel Institute of Technology, where he heads the “Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research“. Presently, his lab investigates the therapeutic potential of phytocannabinoids, with focus on the antitumor effects of cannabinoids. In addition to the laboratory cannabis research performed on-site, Dr Meiri collaborates with cannabis growers, clinicians, major manufacturers and distributors of medical cannabis for the purpose of revolutionizing cannabis treatment. He is operating the “Cannabis Database Project” and his lab is currently involved in eight clinical trials covering diverse aspects of cannabis treatment such as colon disease, pain prevention, cancer treatment and epilepsy.

 

ABOUT Professor Meiri’s LAB

The Laboratory of Cancer Biology and Cannabinoid Research is at the Technion‘s Faculty of Biology. Although it is a new lab, in the past two years they have updated their lab to work with the most modern and innovative equipment, andrecruited a multidisciplinary team of professionals. Dr. Meiri has established many local and international collaborations. Collectively with access to these resources, they can ask and answer almost any question in the field of medical cannabis and they are today one of the leading cannabis laboratories in the world. Their highly trained team of skilled professionals work in synergy and complement each other to achieve the highest level of results.

Presently the lab investigates the vast therapeutic potential of naturally-occurring chemicals, called cannabinoids, in various Cannabis species. In addition to the multitude of other studies currently being conducted in the lab, their principal focus is how these cannabinoids affect various types of cancer, epilepsy, and glucose metabolism (diabetes). Their research relies on their exceptional abilities to characterize all cannabis components and are described in more details on this site. Their lab is also involved in various other high-profile projects and collaborations associated with cannabis. They collaborate with cannabis growers, clinicians, and major local and international medical cannabis manufacturers and distributors to revolutionize cannabis treatment on all levels. They are operating the “Cannabis Database Project” and they are currently involved in eight clinical trials covering diverse aspects of cannabis treatment.

Professor DEDI MEIRI about his work on Profiling Cannabis spp. anti-tumour effects in cancer

Cannabinoid compounds and its analogs are known to have palliative effects in oncology, including: inhibition of nausea and emesis associated with chemotherapy, appetite stimulation, pain relief, mood elevation and relief from insomnia in cancer patients. In the last decade, accumulating evidence indicates that cannabinoids might also have antitumor effects as several studies demonstrated the use of cannabinoids in being able to regress different cancer types, such as glioma, breast cancer and skin carcinoma. These effects were further investigated in vitro, in various cancer cell lines, and revealed pro-apoptotic and anti-proliferative responses to cannabinoids, as well as inhibition of invasion and migration. However, the medical use of Cannabis remains limited due to the large number of active compounds that, together with variability among different Cannabis strains and cultivation methods, impairs our ability to predict the specific clinical effects and determine recommended dosages. In addition, the molecular mechanisms of action of cannabinoids are unknown and have yet to be investigated.

The main objective of our work is to identify how different Cannabis extracts affect various cancer types and to elucidate the mechanisms of cannabinoid-mediated antitumor effects. The results of this research could be instrumental in predicting how to match a cancer subtype with an effective Cannabis extract in order to optimize the treatment efficacy.

 

To demonstrate differential antitumor effects of different Cannabis extracts, we established a method for screening antitumor effects of cannabinoid compounds on various cancer subtypes in vitro. We work to identify the effects of different Cannabis extracts on proliferation and cell death of various cancer cell lines and we intend to classify these effects according to cell line genetic profiles. This enables us to detect the most effective Cannabis extract and cannabinoid profile for a certain cancer subtype. These results rely on our novel ability to analyze the chemical content and metabolomics of the Cannabis plants.

 

Our preliminary data shows that several Cannabis extracts are very potent in killing tumour cells. We found that different strains (each with a distinct cannabinoid composition) have differing yet deleterious effects on various tumour cell lines. The most potent, anti-proliferative, and/or pro-apoptotic Cannabis extracts to matched cell lines will be used as models to further elucidate the Cannabis components’ mechanisms of action. Our lab group recently discovered two new pathways that have been activated by Cannabis extracts in cancer cells and this work is a major research interest in our lab.

 

To strengthen our results, we are using xenograft mouse models to examine the potency of the Cannabis extracts and cannabinoid combinations. Moreover, we are collaborating with Professor Izhak Haviv, a senior professor specializing in personalized cancer medicine and diagnostic genomics. Together we can verify in vitro results of Cannabis extracts or cannabinoids combinations on patient-specific living cancer tissue, grown in xenograft mouse models. We are also collaborating with major Israeli hospitals and are participating in two clinical trials in the field of cancer and Cannabis.

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