Project Summary

PCORI has identified relief of symptoms that patients with advanced illness often experience as an important research topic. Patients, clinicians, and others want to learn how different treatment strategies affect pain, fatigue, insomnia, nausea, depression, and other common symptoms. To address this issue, PCORI launched an initiative in 2017 on Symptom Management for Patients with Advanced Illness. The initiative funded this research project.

This research project is in progress. PCORI will post the research findings on this page within 90 days after the results are final.

What is the research about?

Pain is one of the most common and upsetting symptoms for patients living with advanced cancer. Pain can disrupt sleep and lead to fatigue and decreased quality of life. Doctors often prescribe opioids to manage pain. But these medicines can have side effects such as constipation, dizziness, and increased risk for falls. Non-medicine pain management treatments, such as acupuncture and massage, can be used along with standard medical treatment, including opioids, to treat pain in cancer patients. But patients and doctors may find it hard to decide which treatment approach will best manage their pain and related symptoms.

This study is comparing two ways to manage pain in adults with advanced cancer:

  • Acupuncture, which involves inserting thin needles into different parts of the body
  • Massage, which involves using hands to work muscles and other soft tissues

Who can this research help?

Patients with advanced cancer and their doctors can use these findings when considering ways to manage pain and related symptoms.

What is the research team doing?

The research team is enrolling 300 adults with advanced cancer in New York and New Jersey. These patients have had pain that affects the muscles, ligaments, tendons, or bones for at least one month and moderate to severe pain for at least one week. The team is assigning patients by chance to receive acupuncture or massage in addition to their current pain management treatment.

In the first 10 weeks of the study, patients assigned to acupuncture or massage receive up to 10 treatments; for the next 16 weeks, they get treatment once every 4 weeks. All patients are completing surveys on their pain and related symptoms at 10 and 26 weeks.

Patients with advanced cancer and patient advocates are helping to plan and carry out the study.

Research methods at a glance

Design Elements Description
Design Randomized controlled trial
Population Population Adults with advanced cancer and musculoskeletal pain
Interventions/
Comparators
  • Acupuncture
  • Massage
Outcomes

Primary: pain

Secondary: fatigue, sleep disturbance, quality of life

Timeframe 26-week follow-up for primary outcome

Project Information

Jun Mao, MD, MSCE
Memorial Sloan Kettering
$2,780,640

Key Dates

36 months
April 2019
September 2023
2019

Study Registration Information

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PCORI is interested in research that seeks to better understand how different clinical and health system options work for different people. These populations are frequently studied in our portfolio or identified as being of interest by our stakeholders.

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PCORI funds comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) studies that compare two or more options or approaches to health care, or that compare different ways of delivering or receiving care.

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Last updated: November 23, 2021