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Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox
The NIH is Soliciting Research on How Cannabinoid Signaling Influences Cancer Biology

There is a recognized need for more research on how cannabis derivatives can be used for therapeutic purposes. As part of a growing trend towards the promotion of well-conducted and controlled research on this subject, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) recently published a notice of special interest (NOSI) for grants and contracts to “promote research in understanding the mechanisms by which cannabis and cannabinoids affect cancer biology, cancer interception, cancer treatment and resistance, and management of cancer symptoms.”1 The NIH’s May 5, 2022 notice identifies eight research areas of interest, including “[u]nderstanding how exogenous cannabis and cannabinoids affect cancer development (preneoplasia through malignancy) and biology, including the tumor microenvironment,” “[u]nderstanding how endogenous cannabinoid pathways influence cancer development and biology,” and “[d]efining the effects of cannabis and cannabinoids on cancer treatment (particularly targeted treatments and immunotherapy) and the development of treatment resistance.”2 The NIH’s notice also provides a detailed summary of existing research that the agency regards as in need of further development, including research showing that endocannabinoid signaling pathways appear to be capable of modulating many processes that are dysregulated in cancer, such as cell proliferation, motility, and survival.

While the notice solicits research on the mechanisms associated with the use of cannabis and cannabinoids to manage cancer symptoms and the side effects of chemotherapy, it also seeks to fund research that would yield a “deeper understanding … about how the tumor promoting and suppressive mechanisms of cannabinoid signaling influence cancer biological processes.”This research interest is notable to the extent it goes beyond the more traditional applications of cannabis in the context of cancer symptom management, e.g., pain and nausea, and perhaps signals a growing interest in therapeutic applications focused on tumor suppression and other mechanisms.


[1] Notice of Special Interest (NOSI): Basic Mechanisms of Cannabis and Cannabinoid Action in Cancer, NOT-CA-22-085 (May 5, 2022) available at https://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-CA-22-085.html.

[2] Id.

[3] Id.


This article appeared in the May 2022 issue of MarkIt to Market®. To view our past issues, as well as other firm newsletters, please click here.