A randomized trial of medical cannabis in patients with stage IV cancers to assess feasibility, dose requirements, impact on pain and opioid use, safety, and overall patient satisfaction

Dylan M Zylla, Justin Eklund, Grace Gilmore, Alissa Gavenda, Jordan Guggisberg, Gabriela VazquezBenitez, Pamala A. Pawloski, Tom Arneson, Sara Richter, Angela K. Birnbaum, Stephen Dahmer, Matthew Tracy, Arkadiusz Dudek

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: The prevalence of medical cannabis (MC) use in patients with cancer is growing, but questions about safety, efficacy, and dosing remain. Conducting randomized, controlled trials (RCTs) using state-sponsored MC programs is novel and could provide data needed to guide patients and providers. Methods: A pilot RCT of patients with stage IV cancer requiring opioids was conducted. Thirty patients were randomized 1:1 to early cannabis (EC, n = 15) versus delayed start cannabis (DC, n = 15). The EC group obtained 3 months (3 M) of MC through a state program at no charge, while the DC group received standard oncology care without MC for the first 3 M. Patients met with licensed pharmacists at one of two MC dispensaries to determine a suggested MC dosing, formulation, and route. Patients completed surveys on pain levels, opioid/MC use, side effects, and overall satisfaction with the study. Results: Interest in the study was high as 36% of patients who met eligibility criteria ultimately enrolled. The estimated mean daily THC and CBD allotments at 3 M were 34 mg and 17 mg, respectively. A higher proportion of EC patients achieved a reduction in opioid use and improved pain control. No serious safety issues were reported, and patients reported high satisfaction. Conclusion: Conducting RCTs using a state cannabis program is feasible. The addition of MC to standard oncology care was well-tolerated and may lead to improved pain control and lower opioid requirements. Conducting larger RCTs with MC in state-sponsored programs may guide oncology providers on how to safely and effectively incorporate MC for interested patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalSupportive Care in Cancer
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was supported by grants received from HealthPartners Institute; Randy Shaver Cancer Research and Community Fund; and philanthropic support from Diana and Bob Carter. No grant numbers are applicable. Vireo Health and LeafLine Labs provided all cannabis products at no cost to the patients during the trial period.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature.

Keywords

  • Cancer
  • Medical cannabis
  • Opioids
  • Pain
  • Patient-reported outcomes

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article

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