Acupuncture for symptom control in hematopoietic stem cell transplantation patients: A pilot study

All Cancers
Gary Deng, MD
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center

This study will precisely evaluate acupuncture’s ability to alleviate the nausea, pain and insomnia which occur with chemotherapy. If acupuncture proves to be beneficial, it would be a welcome alternative to pharmacological interventions.

Multiple myeloma patients receive chemotherapy prior to getting stem cell transplantation. These are the patients who will be studied because the progression of their symptoms is very predictable. The researchers will be able to observe changes due to acupuncture with straightforward observation methods.

Every additional drug prescribed to a patient for nausea, pain and insomnia brings its own set of side effects. Acupuncture may provide similar benefits with no side effects. This study could bring a positive change to the care of all chemotherapy patients. [Awarded 2013]

Clinical Summary

This study evaluates acupuncture as a complementary medicine modality for reduction of symptoms and improvement of quality of care in cancer patients. Acupuncture has been shown to reduce some of the individual symptoms such as nausea, pain and insomnia. However, its effect on the overall symptom burden is unknown. The specific aims of this study are to obtain preliminary evidence as to whether acupuncture reduces common symptoms in patients undergoing chemotherapy prior to hematopoietic stem cell transplantation and to assess the effect size for each symptom; the subpopulation that is likely to respond to the intervention; the sample size for a future definitive efficacy study; and to explore correlation between reduction of symptoms and inflammation biomarkers and whether acupuncture may reduce the use of symptom control medications for quality of sleep. This study will generate the data needed for effect size estimation and sample size calculation for a larger definitive efficacy trial. It will also help identify any baseline characteristics that predict response to acupuncture. The success of the study will lead to studies of other cancer populations and expand the integration of a complementary therapy into mainstream cancer care.