While a extensive majority of oncologists do not feel informed enough about medical cannabis utility to make clinical recommendations, most do in fact conduct deliberations on medical cannabis in the clinic and nearly half recommend it to their patients, say scientists who surveyed a population-based sample of medical oncologists.

The study, is the first nationally-representative survey of medical oncologists to examine attitudes, knowledge and practices regarding the agent since medical cannabis became legal on the state level in the U.S. Medical cannabis refers to the non-pharmaceutical cannabis products that healthcare providers recommend for therapeutic purposes. A important amount of medical cannabis products are whole-plant marijuana, which contains hundreds of active ingredients with complicated synergistic and inhibitory interactions. By contrast, cannabinoid pharmaceuticals, which are available with a prescription through a pharmacy, contain no more than a couple of active ingredients. While substantial investigation has gone into the development of cannabinoid pharmaceuticals, much less has been completed on medical cannabis utility in cancer and other diseases. The researchers speculate that the undeveloped scientific indication base poses challenges for oncologists.

The mailed survey queried medical oncologists’ attitudes toward medical cannabis efficacy and safety in comparison with standard treatments; their practices regarding medical cannabis, including holding discussions with patients and recommending medical cannabis clinically; and whether they measured themselves adequately informed regarding medical cannabis utility in oncology. Responses showed significant variances in attitudes and practices based on non-clinical factors, for instance regional location in the U.S.

To date, no randomized clinical trials have observed whole-plant medical cannabis effects in cancer patients, so oncologists are limited to relying on lower quality proof, research on pharmaceutical cannabinoids or research on medical cannabis use in treating diseases other than cancer.

Of note, additional findings of the current study advise that nearly two-thirds of oncologists believe medical cannabis to be an effective adjunct to standard pain treatment, and equally or more operational than the standard therapies for indicators like nausea or lack of appetite, common side effects of cancer treatments such as chemotherapy.