A first-of-its-kind study in Britain is looking into whether CBD can be used to shrink brain tumors in children.

The study was inspired by the growing number of parents purchasing the non-psychoactive cannabis compound online. Lead researcher Richard Grundy of Nottingham University’s children’s brain tumor center said there’s been a great surge in the last six months of parents administering CBD to their afflicted children without medical advice.

“New ways to treat childhood brain tumours are urgently needed to extend and improve the quality of life in malignant brain tumour patients, so we are excited at the prospect of testing the effect of cannabidiol on brain tumour cells,” said Grundy.

The research team will grow cells from various brain tumors, adding cannabidiol molecules to only some of them. They will then compare the samples through a cell staining process, which will let them see how many of the cells are dividing and how many are dying.

“We expect the cells – brain tumour and normal brain – grown in our standard conditions to be healthy and actively dividing,” said Grundy. “We expect that normal brain cells grown in cannabidiol will remain healthy. However, we expect the brain tumour cells grown in cannabidiol to stop growing and die.”

Katie Sheen of the Astro Brain Tumour Fund, which is co-funding the study, said that depending on the results of the study, CBD could prove be a gentler, less toxic alternative to cancer treatments like chemotherapy or radiotherapy.

“We have performed experiments using CBD in leukaemia and it can deactivate signalling pathways, making cells more responsive to chemotherapy,” said Dr. Wai Liu, a research fellow at St George’s University of London.

“All cells need to communicate and these communications get jammed up, and CBD tries to correct this by restoring them. This ultimately results in these cells being able to undergo cell death.

“People think that children’s cells are more flexible so there is a possibility that CBD may have a slightly different effect. We will only be able to understand the precise mechanism and value of this treatment when studies like this are done.”

h/t The Guardian