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Epidemiology and Genomics Research Program

Assessing the Benefits and Harms of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Use in Adult Cancer Patients

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Kelly Filipski, PhD, MPH
Program Director, Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Branch


The US legal landscape of medical and nonmedical cannabis and cannabinoid (cannabis-derived products) use has changed dramatically over the past decade, with wide variation in state policies. Concurrently, the available delivery methods of these products have also undergone substantial changes and include edibles, oils, tinctures, topicals, and inhaled forms. These changes in legalization and types of cannabis and cannabinoid products have increased access and use among the general US population. Despite this increase in cannabis and cannabinoid use, research on its health effects, including both the potential benefits and harms, remains limited.

While most US medical oncologists regularly engage in discussions about cannabis and cannabinoid use with patients, few oncologists feel sufficiently informed to make recommendations. Nonetheless, recent surveys consistently demonstrate that at least a quarter of cancer patients use cannabis and cannabinoids for symptom management during their treatment. Cancer patients use cannabis and cannabinoids during treatment to manage common symptoms such as anxiety, loss of appetite, nausea, pain, and sleep disturbance. While many patients report beneficial effects, there is also potential for harms such as cardiac issues and cognitive impairment.

The rapidly increasing availability of cannabis and cannabinoid products, their delivery methods, and the dearth of information available on their harms and benefits during treatment, call for a rapid infusion of multiple studies addressing cannabis and cannabinoid use among cancer patients.

Funding Opportunities

NCI-sponsored notices of funding opportunities related to assessing the benefits and harms of cannabis and cannabinoid use in adult cancer patients:

  • Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Basic Mechanisms of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Action in Cancer – expires May 8, 2027

EGRP joins with other NCI Divisions, Offices, and Centers and other Institutes and Centers at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to fund grant applications submitted in response to notices of funding opportunities. View the full list of EGRP funding opportunities.

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