Most pediatric oncology care professionals are willing to assist children with cancer with accessing medical marijuana; however, many who are legally eligible to certify are hesitant to approve the use for various reasons, a study published in Pediatrics has shown.

Researchers at the Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago conducted a survey to determine the opinions of pediatric oncology care professionals regarding the use of medical marijuana in children with cancer.

For the study, researchers surveyed pediatric oncology providers in Massachusetts (Dana-Farber/Boston Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center), Washington (Seattle Children’s Cancer and Blood Disorders Center), and Illinois (Lurie Children’s Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders). The survey was sent to a total of 288 physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, psychologists, social workers, and registered nurses who care for children with cancer in both inpatient and outpatient settings.

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Survey results revealed that 92% of respondents were willing to help children with cancer access medical marijuana, but those eligible to certify for medical marijuana were less likely to approve the use. Nearly one-third of respondents received requests for medical marijuana, and most providers (63%) reported not being concerned about substance abuse among pediatric patients using medical marijuana. The most significant barrier to recommending medical marijuana in pediatric patients was lack of standards on formulations, dosing, and potency.

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently sanctions medical marijuana use for “children with life-limiting or seriously debilitating conditions.” Survey responses demonstrated that pediatric oncology providers who consider medical marijuana use permissible in children are in agreement with this position.

Requests for medical marijuana have been for relief of nausea and vomiting, lack of appetite, pain, depression, and anxiety.

“In addition to unclear dosage guidelines, the lack of high quality scientific data that medical marijuana benefits outweigh possible harm is a huge concern for providers accustomed to evidence-based practice,” said Kelley Michelson, MD, critical care physician at Lurie Children’s Hospital, associate professor of Pediatrics and director of the Center for Bioethics and Medical Humanities at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, and a co-author of the study.

“We need rigorously designed clinical trials on the use of medical marijuana in children with cancer,” she concluded.


Medical marijuana for children with cancer? What providers think [news release]. Chicago, IL: Ann & Robert H Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago; December 12, 2017.