Anandamide inhibits breast tumor-induced angiogenesis

Anandamide affects breast cancer growth at multiple levels, by inhibiting proliferation, migration and invasiveness and by directly inhibiting angiogenesis.

Breast cancer is one of the most frequently diagnosed malignancies and a leading cause of cancer death in women.

Great advances in the treatment of primary tumors have led to a significant increment in the overall survival rates, however recurrence and metastatic disease, the underlying cause of death, are still a medical challenge.


Angiogenesis is the physiological process through which new blood vessels form from pre-existing vessels. Preclinical evidence has proposed the endocannabinoid system as a potential target in cancer.

The endocannabinoid anandamide has been reported to affect breast cancer growth at multiple levels, by inhibiting proliferation, migration and invasiveness in vitro and in vivo and by directly inhibiting angiogenesis.

Breast cancer, like many solid tumors, depends on vascular growth to progress.

Indeed, breast tumor angiogenesis is considered as an independent prognostic factor for breast cancer. Several currently used conventional therapeutic regimens, such as numerous chemotherapeutic agents and endocrine therapies, show an intrinsic anti-angiogenic efficacy.

Moreover, specific drugs that target angiogenesis have been developed.

The endocannabinoid system, whose complex biological regulatory functions are crucial especially in several pathophysiological conditions, is emerging as a potential new target in cancer treatment.

Endocannabinoid system compounds (lipid molecules containing long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids, amides, esters and ethers, like anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG)), affect tumor growth at more than one step in several types of malignancies.

Endocannabinoids inhibit cell proliferation and induce cell death, mainly through apoptosis and autophagy, but also to prevent tumor progression, metastasis formation and to inhibit oxygen and nutrient supply through a direct effect on tumor neovascularization.

University of Salerno.


Also known as N-arachidonoylethanolamine or AEA, and is an endogenous analogue of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC. Anandamide has an effect on both the CB1 and CB2 receptors; with the CB1 receptors more affected in the central nervous system and the CB2 receptors more affected in the periphery.

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