Karna T. Sura, Leslie Kohman, Danning Huang, Silviu V. Pasniciuc


June 28, 2022


Objectives: Medical marijuana is a symptom treatment option for palliative cancer patients; however, its useful applications remain limited. The goals of this study were to review the characteristics of patients who received medical marijuana under our ambulatory palliative care program and to determine barriers to access and use of medical marijuana in this population.

Methods: This study was a retrospective analysis of patients who were enrolled in the medical marijuana registry through the ambulatory palliative care department at Upstate Cancer Center. Data from June 2017 to June 2020 were analyzed. Patients were included if they had a diagnosis of cancer, were certified by a qualified practitioner in the New York Medical Marijuana Program, and received care at Upstate Medical University. Patients were excluded if no marijuana certificate was found or if they transferred care.

Results: The study population was 184 patients. Ninety-three patients (51.5%) received at least one prescription from a New York licensed marijuana dispensary while 72 (39.13%) were certified but never obtained any medical marijuana. For patients who took at least one dose of medical marijuana, 48.14% experienced an improvement in pain, 44.95% used fewer opioids, and 85.11% had an improvement in at least one symptom. Adverse effects were low at 3.72%.

Conclusion: Medical marijuana has an important role in the palliation of symptoms in advanced cancers with few adverse effects. There are still many barriers to effective use. More prospective research is needed to optimize delivery and dosing.

DOI: 10.7759/cureus.26406


Sura K T, Kohman L, Huang D, et al. (June 28, 2022) Experience With Medical Marijuana for Cancer Patients in the Palliative Setting. Cureus 14(6): e26406. doi:10.7759/cureus.26406