The impact of cannabis for patients with cancer
Medical cannabis has been shown to reduce pain, nausea and anxiety for patients with cancer. To fully understand the opportunities and barriers of medical cannabis in cancer care requires research. Since 2016, we have led a state-wide Cannabis in Cancer workgroup with the Minnesota Department of Health, University of Minnesota, Mayo Clinic, Minnesota Medical Solutions (Vireo Health), and LeafLine Labs. This workgroup has helped to create research opportunities for patients; publish results in peer-reviewed journals; and obtain grant funding.
We are involved in several studies as well as education programs to increase knowledge of this evolving area. Recent highlights include:
How and why patients with cancer use cannabis
We know from prior studies that cannabis improves pain, nausea and anxiety — symptoms patients with cancer often experience. In addition, research from lab experiments and animal models suggest cannabis may have anti-tumor effects. In collaboration with HealthPartners Institute’s Center for Evaluation and Survey Research, our team is conducting a national survey called “Cannabis as an Anti-Tumor Agent (CATA).” It is designed to help us better understand how and why patients with cancer use cannabis. What can patients who believe cannabis has helped to control their cancer teach us? To date, more than 1,000 patients from around the world have completed the survey.
Cannabis use across Minnesota
Our team received a $125,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute to understand how patients with cancer across Minnesota use cannabis. We partnered with colleagues from the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Department of Health. Final results are expected in late 2021.
Education and patient support
As our cannabis research portfolio grows, so does the need for additional education and patient support. Dylan Zylla, MD, is piloting a Cannabis in Cancer Research and Education (CanCaRE) clinic to guide patients interested in incorporating cannabis into their cancer treatment plan. Education on safe and effective use of cannabis is key to maximizing qualify of life. Patients will also be offered research opportunities when available.