NCI U01 grant funds study exploring medical marijuana in breast cancer treatment

With a five-year $3.2 million U01 award from the National Cancer Institute (NCI), a team of researchers from the UF Health Cancer Center and the University of Miami Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center will study the benefits and harms of medical marijuana in breast cancer patients.

Jennifer Hu, Ph.D., left, and Yan Wang, Ph.D.

The team hypothesizes that medical marijuana may improve treatment-related symptoms and clinical outcomes in some patients by targeting and modulating the inflammasome/inflammatory pathway. Researchers will analyze data from 600 patients during and after breast cancer treatment.

“As many as 40% of U.S. cancer patients use medical marijuana to manage cancer-related symptoms, yet we know very little about its effects during and after cancer treatments,” said Dejana Braithwaite, Ph.D., associate director for cancer population sciences at the UF Health Cancer Center. “This innovative study is an ambitious effort to provide answers to pressing questions about medical marijuana and cancer. It will help doctors address questions about the effects of medical marijuana among cancer patients of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, as well as shed light on the benefits and harms of medical marijuana.”

The team is led by Yan Wang, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the department of epidemiology in the UF College of Public Health and Health Professions, and Jennifer J. Hu, Ph.D., a professor in the department of public health sciences at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. Co-investigators of the project at UF include Braithwaite, Lisa Spiguel, M.D., Julie Bradley, M.D., and Zhigang Li, Ph.D. 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., MSBA, Isildinha M. Reis, DrPH, and Cristiane Takita, M.D.

The multidisciplinary research team has expertise in population-based and clinical breast cancer research, the biological effects of medical marijuana use, and technology-based assessments of patient-centric outcomes.

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