Oral Papers: Pharmacology & Therapeutics

Oral Paper

PT3 - Medical Oncologists’ Knowledge, Beliefs and Practices Around Marijuana Used Therapeutically: A Nationally-representative Survey Study

Friday, November 10
2:00 PM - 3:30 PM
Location: Fiesta 13/14

Objective: While the number of states with medical marijuana (MM) laws has expanded to 28, and almost every such state law identifies cancer as an appropriate therapeutic target, no randomized trials of MM have been completed in oncology populations. This study explores the knowledge, beliefs and practices of medical oncologists around the role of marijuana in cancer care.


Methods: A questionnaire was designed and cognitive tested in a convenience sample of five oncologists. Once finalized, the questionnaire-- along with an anonymity-preserving post card, $50 incentive, and return envelope-- was sent by United Postal Service Priority Mail to 400 clinically active medical oncologists in a nationally representative random sample. Reminder mailings and phone calls were completed over the next weeks. The data were analyzed using standard statistical techniques.  All continuous variables were transformed into categorical variables.  Differences in proportions between two categorical variables were tested using chi-squares.


Results: The American Association for Public Opinion Research Method 3 Response Rate was 64.6%. 65% of those who responded believed marijuana to be equally or more effective than standard treatment for poor appetite/cachexia; 50%, for nausea/vomiting; 45%, for pain and anxiety. 70% believed marijuana to be a good adjunctive anxiety treatment; 65%, a good adjunctive pain treatment. 50% believed marijuana is usually or always beneficial for those near the end of life. 70% viewed medical marijuana as equal to or safer than opiates with regard to risks of confusion, falls, addiction, overdose death; 65%, with regard to risks for anxiety or depression; 60%, driving difficulties; and 55%, paranoia. In the past year, 70% had never certified a single patient, and 50% had never recommended marijuana even informally. 60% reported that patients or their families, rather than oncologist themselves, start the conversation about medical marijuana. 20% have never discussed it. With regard to knowledge base, 70% felt as though they did not have sufficient knowledge to make recommendations to patients.


Conclusions: On net, oncologists are enthusiastic about medical marijuana for their patients. They view it as good primary or augmentation strategy for cachexia, nausea/vomiting, and to a lesser extent pain and anxiety. They consider it safer than prescription opioids, particularly around addiction and overdose death. That said, a large proportion of oncologists are reticent to raise the topic or make recommendations. While there are many potential reasons, our data suggests that one is lack of confidence in their knowledge base. Our research highlights the need for additional research in this area and further education of oncologists.

Learning Objectives:

Ilana Braun

Chief, Division of Adult Psychosocial Oncology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dr. Braun is chief of the Division of Adult Psychosocial Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. She helped lead efforts to develop medical marijuana guidelines for Partners HealthCare, a hospital system inclusive of the Brigham and Women's, Massachusetts General and McLean hospitals. Her program of mixed methods research examines the role of cannabinoids in both cancer care and in psychiatry.

Presentation(s):

Send Email for Ilana Braun

Ilana Braun

Chief, Division of Adult Psychosocial Oncology
Dana-Farber Cancer Institute

Dr. Braun is chief of the Division of Adult Psychosocial Oncology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, MA. She helped lead efforts to develop medical marijuana guidelines for Partners HealthCare, a hospital system inclusive of the Brigham and Women's, Massachusetts General and McLean hospitals. Her program of mixed methods research examines the role of cannabinoids in both cancer care and in psychiatry.

Presentation(s):

Send Email for Ilana Braun


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