University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center
Donald I. Abrams, MD

Donald I. Abrams, MD

Professor, Department of Medicine, UCSF

Research Summary

Donald I. Abrams, M.D. is a general oncologist at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, an integrative oncologist at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California San Francisco. He graduated from Brown University in 1972 and from the Stanford University School of Medicine in 1977. After completing an Internal Medicine residency at the Kaiser Foundation Hospital in San Francisco, he became a fellow in Hematology-Oncology at the UCSF Cancer Research Institute in 1980. During his fellowship, Dr. Abrams spent eight months working in the retrovirology laboratory of Harold Varmus, M.D. during the time that the first cases of AIDS were being diagnosed. He subsequently returned to the clinical arena where he was one of the original clinician/investigators to recognize many of the early AIDS-related conditions. He conducted numerous clinical trials investigating conventional as well as complementary therapies in patients with HIV including therapeutic touch, Traditional Chinese Medicine interventions, medicinal mushrooms, medical marijuana and distant healing. His interest in botanical therapies led him to pursue a two-year Fellowship in the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona which he completed in December 2004. His particular passion in the field involves nutrition and cancer. Since completing his Fellowship, Dr. Abrams has been providing Integrative Medicine consultation to people living with and beyond cancer at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. He served as Chief of hematology-Oncology at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital from 2003-2017. He co-edited an Oxford University Press textbook in Integrative Oncology with Andrew Weil, M.D.. He is a member of the NCI PDQ CAM Editorial Board. Dr. Abrams was President of the Society of Integrative Oncology in 2010.


Brown University, Providence, RI, AB, 1972, Molecular Biology
Stanford Univ. School of Medicine, Stanford, CA, MD, 1977, Medicine
Kaiser Foundation Hospital, San Francisco, CA, 1980, Internal Medicine
Cancer Research Institute, UCSF, 1983, Hematology/Oncology
University of Arizona, Fellowship, Tucson, AZ, 2004, Integrative Medicine

Professional Experience

  • July 1982 - June 1983
    Assistant Research Physician, Cancer Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco
  • July 1983 - June 1984
    Clinical Instructor, Department of Medicine, San Francisco General Hospital and Cancer Research Institute, University of California, San Francisco
  • July 1983 - June 2003
    Assistant Director, AIDS Activities, San Francisco General Hospital
  • July 1984 - June 1988
    Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • July 1985 - Sept 2006
    Chairman, Community Consortium of Bay Area HIV Health Care Providers
  • July 1988 - June 1992
    Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of California, San Francisco
  • July 1992 - present
    Professor of Clinical Medicine, University of California San Francisco
  • July 2003 - December 2017
    Chief, Hematology-Oncology, San Francisco General Hospital
  • August 2006 - January 2009
    Director, Clinical Programs, Osher Center, University of California, San Francisco

Honors & Awards

  • 1986-89
    American Cancer Society Career Development Award
  • 1990
    Assistant Secretary of Health's Award for Outstanding Accomplishment
  • 2000
    American Foundation for AIDS Research Award of Courage
  • 2000
    International Association of Physicians in AIDS CARE (IAPAC) Heroes in Medicine Award
  • 2002
    UCSF AIDS Research Institute Sarlo Award for Excellence in Mentoring
  • 2007
    International Association for Cannabis as Medicine Award for Clinical Research
  • 2009
    National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Lester Grinspoon Award
  • 2015
    Patients Out of Time Lifetime Achievement in Cannabis Medicine
  • 2015
    2015 Lesbian, Gay. Bisexual & Transgender (LGBT) Leadership Award from the California Legislative LGBT Caucus
  • 2015
    Newsweek Magazine 2015 Top Cancer Doctors

Selected Publications

  1. Abrams DI, Couey P, Dixit N, Sagi V, Hagar W, Vichinsky E, Kelly ME, Connett JE, Gupta K. Effect of Inhaled Cannabis for Pain in Adults With Sickle Cell Disease: A Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA Netw Open. 2020 Jul 01; 3(7):e2010874.
    View on PubMed
  2. Abrams DI, Guzmán M. Can Cannabis Cure Cancer? JAMA Oncol. 2020 Jan 16.
    View on PubMed
  3. Savoie MB, Paciorek A, Zhang L, Van Blarigan EL, Sommovilla N, Abrams D, Atreya CE, Bergsland EK, Chern H, Kelley RK, Ko A, Laffan A, Sarin A, Varma MG, Venook AP, Van Loon K. Vitamin D Levels in Patients with Colorectal Cancer Before and After Treatment Initiation. J Gastrointest Cancer. 2019 Dec; 50(4):769-779.
    View on PubMed
  4. Cooper ZD, Abrams DI. Considering abuse liability and neurocognitive effects of cannabis and cannabis-derived products when assessing analgesic efficacy: a comprehensive review of randomized-controlled studies. Am J Drug Alcohol Abuse. 2019; 45(6):580-595.
    View on PubMed
  5. Bonn-Miller MO, Pollack CV, Casarett D, Dart R, ElSohly M, Good L, Guzmán M, Hanuš L, Hill KP, Huestis MA, Marsh E, Sisley S, Skinner N, Spahr J, Vandrey R, Viscusi E, Ware MA, Abrams D. Priority Considerations for Medicinal Cannabis-Related Research. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2019; 4(3):139-157.
    View on PubMed
  6. Thompson-Lastad A, Atreya CE, Chao MT, Pollak C, Dhruva A, Santana T, Abrams DI. Improving Access to Integrative Oncology Through Group Medical Visits: A Pilot Implementation Project. J Altern Complement Med. 2019 Jul; 25(7):733-739.
    View on PubMed
  7. Abrams DI. Should Oncologists Recommend Cannabis? Curr Treat Options Oncol. 2019 06 03; 20(7):59.
    View on PubMed
  8. Casarett D, Abrams DI. Why Insurance Companies Should Pay for Medical Cannabis. Am J Bioeth. 2019 Apr; 19(4):8-10.
    View on PubMed
  9. Zick SM, Snyder D, Abrams DI. Pros and Cons of Dietary Strategies Popular Among Cancer Patients. Oncology (Williston Park). 2018 11 15; 32(11):542-7.
    View on PubMed
  10. Abrams DI. An Integrative Approach to Prostate Cancer. J Altern Complement Med. 2018 Sep/Oct; 24(9-10):872-880.
    View on PubMed
  11. Abrams DI. The therapeutic effects of Cannabis and cannabinoids: An update from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report. Eur J Intern Med. 2018 03; 49:7-11.
    View on PubMed
  12. Chao C, Silverberg MJ, Chen LH, Xu L, Martínez-Maza O, Abrams DI, Zha HD, Haque R, Said J. Novel tumor markers provide improved prediction of survival after diagnosis of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-related diffuse large B-cell lymphoma. Leuk Lymphoma. 2018 02; 59(2):321-329.
    View on PubMed
  13. Piomelli D, Cooper Z, Abrams D, Grant I, Patel S. A Guide to the National Academy of Science Report on Cannabis: An Exclusive Discussion with Panel Members. Cannabis Cannabinoid Res. 2017; 2(1):155-159.
    View on PubMed
  14. Abrams D, McCulloch M, Cohen M, Liaw M, Silverman D, Wilson C. A Survey of Licensed Acupuncturists in the San Francisco Bay Area: Prevalence of Treating Oncology Patients. Integr Cancer Ther. 2018 03; 17(1):92-98.
    View on PubMed
  15. Edman JS, Greeson JM, Roberts RS, Kaufman AB, Abrams DI, Dolor RJ, Wolever RQ. Perceived Stress in Patients with Common Gastrointestinal Disorders: Associations with Quality of Life, Symptoms and Disease Management. Explore (NY). 2017 Mar - Apr; 13(2):124-128.
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  16. Gupta NK, Nolan A, Omuro A, Reid EG, Wang CC, Mannis G, Jaglal M, Chavez JC, Rubinstein PG, Griffin A, Abrams DI, Hwang J, Kaplan LD, Luce JA, Volberding P, Treseler PA, Rubenstein JL. Long-term survival in AIDS-related primary central nervous system lymphoma. Neuro Oncol. 2017 01; 19(1):99-108.
    View on PubMed
  17. Abrams DI. Using Medical Cannabis in an Oncology Practice. Oncology (Williston Park). 2016 May; 30(5):397-404.
    View on PubMed
  18. Dusek JA, Abrams DI, Roberts R, Griffin KH, Trebesch D, Dolor RJ, Wolever RQ, McKee MD, Kligler B. Patients Receiving Integrative Medicine Effectiveness Registry (PRIMIER) of the BraveNet practice-based research network: study protocol. BMC Complement Altern Med. 2016 Feb 04; 16:53.
    View on PubMed
  19. Chao C, Xu L, Silverberg MJ, Martínez-Maza O, Chen LH, Castor B, Abrams DI, Zha HD, Haque R, Said J. Stromal immune infiltration in HIV-related diffuse large B-cell lymphoma is associated with HIV disease history and patient survival. AIDS. 2015 Sep 24; 29(15):1943-51.
    View on PubMed
  20. Andreae MH, Carter GM, Shaparin N, Suslov K, Ellis RJ, Ware MA, Abrams DI, Prasad H, Wilsey B, Indyk D, Johnson M, Sacks HS. Inhaled Cannabis for Chronic Neuropathic Pain: A Meta-analysis of Individual Patient Data. J Pain. 2015 Dec; 16(12):1221-1232.
    View on PubMed

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