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$3.2M NCI Grant Supports Study on Cannabis in Breast Cancer Treatments

The National Cancer Institute (NCI) award will fund a five-year study of the benefits and risks of medical cannabis in breast cancer patients – a significantly expanding subset of the nation's medical cannabis users. 

“Despite being considered safe and well-tolerated, medical cannabis may result in potential interactions with cancer treatments, adverse reactions, and tumor progression,” said Jennifer Hu, Ph.D., professor and director of the Division of Epidemiology in the Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

Dr. Jennifer Hu
Dr. Jennifer Hu co-leads the 12-member team.

This five-year $3.2 million U01 marks a significant stride in advancing the understanding of the therapeutic potential of medical cannabis. The funding will allow comprehensive research efforts intended to clarify the distinct function and influence of medical cannabis in addressing various aspects of breast cancer, fostering a greater understanding of its possible uses and advantages. 

Researchers will analyze data from 600 patients throughout breast cancer treatment and post-treatment. The study will include data on treatment regimens, clinician-reported outcomes, adverse reactions, and patient-reported outcomes. 

With this, researchers hope to gain useful insights into the complex dynamics of breast cancer management and the associated patient experiences.

The study’s team includes researchers from Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center and the University of Florida Health Cancer Center. The multidisciplinary research team specializes in technology-based evaluations of patient-centric outcomes, the biological consequences of medical marijuana usage, and population-based and clinical breast cancer research. 

The 12-member team is led by Dr. Hu, and Yan Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Epidemiology at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions.

Co-investigators at the University of Miami include Eli Avisar, M.D., Carmen Calfa, M.D., Tracy Crane, Ph.D., R.D.N., Juan Pablo de Rivero Vaccari, Ph.D., M.S.B.A., Isildinha M. Reis, Ph.D., and Cristiane Takita, M.D.

According to Dr. Hu, recent studies indicate that about 40% of breast cancer patients use medical cannabis to alleviate cancer-related symptoms. “Breast cancer represents approximately 30% of all new female cancer cases in the United States, making it the most common cancer among American women.”

“Our results will be of great value to physicians and cancer patients, as they will inform decision-making regarding medical cannabis to enhance therapies, improve quality of life, and minimize adverse effects,” said Dr. Hu. The findings will also help doctors address questions about the advantages and risks of medical cannabis effects among cancer patients of different racial and ethnic backgrounds.

The underrepresentation of marginalized and minority populations in medical research is a concern for researchers, especially when it comes to studies on cancer. This new research project aims to address these disparities – half of the participants will be underserved minorities.

Written by Deycha Torres Hernández
Published on December 12, 2023