Federal Health Agency Grants $3.2 Million for Studying the Influence of Marijuana on Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment

Federal Health Agency Grants .2 Million for Studying the Influence of Marijuana on Cancer Immunotherapy Treatment

The federal health agency, in conjunction with the National Institutes of Health’s National Cancer Institute, is providing a $3.2 million grant to researchers from the University of Buffalo (UB) to investigate the effects of using cannabis while undergoing immunotherapy for cancer treatment. The study will also explore whether access to marijuana can help reduce health disparities.

Immunotherapy is a common cancer treatment that aims to enhance the body’s natural defense mechanisms against cancer cells, resulting in fewer side effects compared to traditional chemotherapy. However, little is known about how cannabis use impacts the efficacy of immunotherapy. Despite cannabis being legalized for medical or adult use in most states, there is a lack of long-term studies evaluating its benefits and potential harms for individuals receiving immunotherapy.

Principal investigator Rebecca Ashare, a psychiatrist from UB, expressed concerns regarding the impact of cannabis on immunotherapy. While certain cannabinoids possess anti-inflammatory properties that can alleviate pain, these substances may also suppress immune function. Therefore, it is essential to determine whether cannabis consumption compromises the effectiveness of immunotherapy.

To conduct this year-long study, UB will collaborate with Thomas Jefferson University and Oregon Health and Science University at three separate sites. A total of 450 cancer patients undergoing immunotherapy will be recruited as participants. Half of them will consist of cannabis users who will utilize their own products, while the other half will be non-users. The research team will analyze medical records, patient outcomes, and blood samples at six different time points over the course of a year.

In addition to investigating the effects of cannabis on immunotherapy, the grant will also support research into the role of neighborhood disadvantage in relation to cannabis use and immunotherapy outcomes. The researchers aim to determine if access to cannabis can help reduce health disparities among cancer patients.

Ashare emphasized that this study is crucial due to the increasing prevalence of both immunotherapy and cannabis use in oncology. Many patients and physicians have embraced these therapeutic options; however, evidence regarding their combination is lacking. This project represents a significant step toward addressing this issue and providing much-needed evidence to guide clinical decision-making.

An official from the National Cancer Institute highlighted the agency’s interest in fostering research on the relationship between cannabis and cancer treatment. While many oncologists discuss marijuana use with their patients, few possess sufficient knowledge on the topic. Consequently, the National Cancer Institute has outlined areas of cannabis research that it intends to fund.

Recent studies have shown promising results regarding the benefits of cannabis for cancer patients. Consistent cannabis use has been associated with improved cognition and reduced pain among individuals undergoing chemotherapy. Furthermore, state cannabis legalization has been linked to reduced opioid prescribing for certain cancer patients, according to research published by the American Medical Association.

In conclusion, the $3.2 million grant awarded to UB will enable researchers to investigate the impact of cannabis on immunotherapy for cancer treatment. By studying both the benefits and potential harms of cannabis use during immunotherapy, this study aims to provide valuable insights into the efficacy of this treatment combination. Additionally, the research will explore how access to cannabis may help reduce health disparities among cancer patients. This study has significant implications for cancer symptom management and patient care and safety.

Dr. Paul Miller, MD

Dr. Miller is committed to finding new and innovative ways to help his patients manage their symptoms and improve their overall quality of life. He has a particular interest in the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis and is passionate about educating both his colleagues and patients on its safe and effective use. He is also committed to continuing his education and staying up-to-date on the latest advances in neurology and cannabis research.

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