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Specific Research Interests

A number of National Institutes of Health (NIH) Institutes, Centers, and Offices (ICOs) have an interest in the potential therapeutic properties of cannabis, cannabinoids, and related compounds as well as their adverse effects on health and society. The following are identified interests of specific ICOs. These interests may be reflected in specific funding opportunity announcements (FOAs), or research applications related to these interests can be submitted through general funding mechanisms. 

National Cancer Institute (NCI)

  • Basic mechanisms of exogenous and endogenous cannabinoids in tumor development (preneoplasia to metastasis) and biology (including tumor microenvironment and immune function), cancer treatment response and resistance, and alleviation of symptoms due to cancer treatments (e.g., pain, nausea, vomiting).
  • Observational research studies to elucidate our understanding of how (e.g., source, modes, potency, dosages) and why cancer patients are currently using cannabis, and to understand the perceived and real benefits and harms of cannabis use, including potential drug interactions, associations with cancer and its treatments, comorbid conditions, and co-use with tobacco.
  • High-quality clinical trials comparing current standard of care with the use of cannabis to mitigate cancer treatment-related side effects such as nausea, vomiting, pain, neuropathy, anxiety, insomnia, loss of appetite, and changes in body weight.

National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (NCATS)

National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)

  • Minor cannabinoids and terpenes as analgesics.
  • Endocannabinoid system and pain.
  • Clinical research to support translational studies of cannabinoids and terpenes to study the biological impact of these compounds in the symptom management of sleep disturbance, pain conditions, or mental health conditions managed in primary care. Those interested in NCCIH-supported clinical trials should explore available clinical research funding opportunities for natural products

National Eye Institute (NEI)

  • Therapeutic use of cannabinoids for treatment of glaucoma.

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)

  • Pain relief (sickle cell anemia).
  • Behavioral consequences (effects on medication management and lifestyle).
  • Cannabinoid effects on pathways involved in heart, lung, or blood disease (graft-versus-host disease).
  • Effects on sleep.
  • Unintended negative health effects (e.g., first-hand and second-hand effects of inhaled substances on lungs, pre-existing lung diseases such as asthma, cardiovascular system).

National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR)

  • Mechanistic, preclinical, or clinical studies on the analgesic, immune-mediating, anti-inflammatory, apoptotic, or other potential therapeutic properties of cannabis, cannabinoids, and related compounds for dental, oral, or craniofacial diseases.
  • Research studies that investigate the endocannabinoid system–modulated behavioral and systemic changes that can directly and substantially impact the prevention, diagnosis, or prognosis of dental, oral, or craniofacial diseases (primary outcomes).

National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS)

  • Mechanistic studies in several clinical areas: anesthesia and perioperative pain, injury and critical illness, sepsis, and wound healing. Research involving cannabinoids in these areas could potentially fall into NIGMS mission.

National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH)

  • Preclinical projects aimed at understanding how endogenous cannabinoids (eCBs) influence cellular, signaling, and circuit mechanisms implicated in mental health–relevant behaviors. Studies identifying and testing potential therapeutic targets acting on the eCB system. Preclinical research on marijuana and its constituent compounds would be of low priority.
  • Clinical research including studying the role of eCBs and cannabinoid (CB) receptor manipulation in psychiatric populations. Specifically, studying how pharmacologic manipulation of CB cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) levels or CB receptors can influence central nervous system (CNS) function in psychiatric disorders. Access to the CB system should be performed using targeted pharmacologic agents with good safety profiles, specificity, and selectivity to test them in early-stage pharmacokinetic and/or pharmacodynamic (PK/PD) trials, using trial designs that incorporate a CNS PD measure associated with the pharmacologic target. See Notice of Special Interest example: Also see the NIMH FOAs for clinical trials (which would be required for submitting a clinical trial application):    

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)

  • Cannabinoid signaling in neural pain processing pertaining to neuropathic and nerve-injury pain.
  • Cannabinoids as therapeutics.
  • Interactions between cannabinoids/cannabis and drugs used to prevent or treat neurological disorders.

National Institute on Aging (NIA)

  • Understanding mechanisms of cannabis and its constituents in the setting of pain and/or nociception, age-related cognitive decline and/or impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease–related dementias, weight loss and/or cachexia, sleep, or conditions in palliative care settings; and aging-related changes in the endocannabinoid system and other physiologic systems (e.g., renal, musculoskeletal, central nervous system) affecting cannabinoid metabolism and mechanisms of action, and in relation to multiple chronic conditions and polypharmacy.
  • Deeper mechanistic understanding of cannabinoid signaling and changes in signaling with aging to enable development of therapeutics that can benefit health across the lifespan.
  • Pharmacology of therapeutic cannabis with aging.

National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA)

  • Research exploring the role of endocannabinoid systems in alcohol misuse and alcohol use disorder (AUD) and medication development for AUD targeting endocannabinoid pathways.
  • Cannabidiol (CBD) for the treatment of AUD and brain mechanisms shared by AUD and other substances with addiction liability, including cannabis.

National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA)

  • Mechanistic research on the endocannabinoid system and cannabinoid signaling.
  • Basic science on cannabis compounds including tetrahydrocannabinol (e.g., delta-8, delta-9, delta-10), other cannabinoids, terpenes, and other cannabis constituents.
  • Epidemiology, policy research, and public health outcomes related to cannabis use.
  • Impacts of cannabis exposure across the lifespan from the prenatal period through adolescence, young adulthood, and later adulthood.
  • Risk and resilience factors underlying trajectories from cannabis use to cannabis use disorder.
  • Potential therapeutic uses of cannabis and cannabinoids to moderate other substance use (e.g., opioids).
  • Pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic interventions for cannabis use disorder, tailored to the needs of different populations, including treatments targeting withdrawal, craving, relapse, polysubstance use, and comorbid conditions.

Office of Research in Women’s Health (ORWH)

  • Applications of therapeutic cannabinoid research and effects of therapeutic cannabinoids on diverse populations of women across the reproductive life course, particularly in underrepresented, underserved, and understudied populations.
  • Proposed preclinical (basic) to translational research study designs and research methods, which purposefully consider sex as a biological variable, with respect to mechanisms underlying differences in therapeutic efficacy benefits, safety, and adverse effects of cannabis, cannabinoids, and related compounds.
  • Applications of endocannabinoid research to further elucidate on the mechanisms of disease, pathophysiology, and therapeutic interventions for female-specific conditions and conditions that affect women.