Medicinal cannabis drug developer Zelda Therapeutics (ASX:ZLD) has identified a receptor complex in the human body that could present a new therapeutic target for diagnosing breast cancer.

Professor Cristina Sanchez, a member of Zelda’s medical advisory board, published results of a study in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and Zelda will collaborate with Prof Sanchez and Madrid’s Complutense University to investigate further – and scoop up any IP the collaboration generates.

The study looked at HER2-positive breast cancer; the HER2 protein being a classic biomarker for aggressive cancer, found in approximately 20 per cent of breast cancer patients.

It found that the cannabinoid receptor CB2 can bind the HER2 receptor to form a novel complex. It showed that expression of CB2-HER2 receptor complexes correlates with poor prognosis in breast cancer patients and that treatment with tetrahydrocannbinol (THC), which binds the CB2 receptor, disrupted CB2/HER2 heteromers and promoted anti-tumour responses.

Zelda Therapeutics (ASX:ZLD) shares rose 6 per cent on the news to 5.6c.

HER2 proteins are classic signs for aggressive cancer. They’re found in 20 per cent of breast cancer patients.

When we consume cannabis, cannabinoids bind to receptors – part of our endocannabinoid system which helps regulate processes such as fertility, appetite, pain response, mood, memory and mediating the effects of cannabis.

The study found one of those receptors – CB2 – can bind with the HER2 receptor. And there’s a correlation between the presence of that CB2-HER2 receptor and poor prognosis in breast cancer patients.

The study found that treatment with THC can disrupt that CB2/HER2 union and “promote anti-tumour responses”.

Zelda boss Dr Richard Hopkins says the results validate his company’s strategy of working with world-leading researchers.

“This paper makes an important contribution to our understanding of the role of the endocannabinoid system in cancer and has identified a novel therapeutic target for management of HER2+ breast cancer,” he said.

The company has been reaching out to experts across the globe for expertise on its various clinical trial programmes.