Project Summary

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?

Hematopoietic stem cell transplant, or HSCT, is a type of cancer treatment that replaces a patient’s unhealthy blood cells with healthy ones. Before HSCT treatment, patients must first get high-dose chemotherapy, which can cause painful swelling in the mouth. This pain can lead to weight loss, depression, and lower quality of life.

Cancer treatment guidelines recommend that doctors treat pain using both medicine and alternative approaches. Doctors often use medicines called opioids to treat patients’ pain. But opioids have side effects, such as drowsiness and nausea. It may also be hard for patients to stop using opioids after cancer treatment. One alternative approach is acupuncture. Acupuncture involves inserting small needles into different parts of the body to treat pain.

In this study, the research team is comparing these two ways to manage pain among patients receiving HSCT treatment.

Who can this research help?

Results may help patients receiving HSCT treatment and doctors when considering ways to manage pain and limit the use of opioids.

What is the research team doing?

The research team is recruiting 300 patients with cancer who are receiving HSCT treatment at two clinics. The team is assigning patients by chance to one of two treatment approaches:

  • Acupuncture plus opioids. In this approach, patients receive five acupuncture treatments in one week. If acupuncture doesn’t prevent severe pain, patients receive opioids.
  • Standard pain management with opioids. In this approach, patients receive opioids for severe pain.

Patients complete surveys before starting chemotherapy and 7, 15, 30, and 90 days later. Surveys ask about pain, symptoms from chemotherapy and HSCT treatment, the dose and number of opioid pills patients take, side effects of opioids, and quality of life.

Patients with cancer are helping to design the study and recruit patients.

Research methods at a glance

Design Element Description
Design Randomized controlled trial
Population Adults ages 18 and older with multiple myeloma, Hodgkin disease, and non-Hodgkin lymphoma who are receiving high-dose chemotherapy at one of two participating clinics
Acupuncture plus opioids if needed
​Standard pain management with opioids

Primary: proportion of patients using opioids, bone marrow transplant symptom burden

Secondary: opioid dose, patient-reported pain, opioid side effects (e.g., drowsiness, constipation, nausea), mucositis, and quality of life

Timeframe 3-month follow-up for primary outcomes

Journal Citations

Project Information

Gary Deng, MD, PhD
Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center
Opioid-sparing Pain Treatment in Myeloma and Lymphoma Patients Undergoing High-Dose Chemotherapy (OPTIMAL-HiChemo)

Key Dates

November 2019
May 2024

Study Registration Information


Award Type
Health Conditions Health Conditions These are the broad terms we use to categorize our funded research studies; specific diseases or conditions are included within the appropriate larger category. Note: not all of our funded projects focus on a single disease or condition; some touch on multiple diseases or conditions, research methods, or broader health system interventions. Such projects won’t be listed by a primary disease/condition and so won’t appear if you use this filter tool to find them. View Glossary
Populations Populations 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. View Glossary
Intervention Strategy Intervention Strategies 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. View Glossary
State State The state where the project originates, or where the primary institution or organization is located. View Glossary
Last updated: September 26, 2023