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VCU Massey Cancer Center


Device found to reduce chemotherapy-induced pain

Calmare Pain Therapy Device [View Image]

An estimated 30 to 40 percent of cancer patients treated with chemotherapy experience pain, according to the National Cancer Institute. Known as chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), CIPN can produce sharp pains, numbness, tingling and or burning sensations in the hands and feet of cancer patients because of nerve damage caused by chemotherapy. However, a recent clinical trial utilizing a device first tested at VCU Massey Cancer Center provides further evidence that it can significantly reduce CIPN symptoms without the use of drugs or invasive treatments.

In 2009, VCU Massey Cancer Center was the first in the United States to conduct an independent clinical trial testing an FDA-approved, European-developed device called the Calmare® Pain Therapy Device. Through the use of biophysical “Scrambler” technology involving the application of surface electrodes to a patient’s skin, Calmare® offers a noninvasive, nontoxic and nonpharmaceutical option for pain control. The study showed that the device offered a 64 percent reduction in pain with no toxicity.

Massey researchers have recently continued their studies of the Calmare® device in a single-arm clinical trial to explore its potential benefits on additional cancer pain syndromes, such as radiation and post-mastectomy and other surgical pain. The study, recently published in the Journal of Pain and Palliative Care Pharmacotherapy, consisted of a diverse group of 39 cancer patients, including 16 men and 23 women, who were experiencing cancer pain. Over the course of two weeks, the patients received 10 treatment sessions, once each day, Monday through Friday. After treatment, the researchers gauged the “now” pain scores of the patients using a numerical rating scale where 0 was no pain and 10 was the worst pain. The results showed that on average, patients experienced a pain score reduction of 31.8 percent.

“The study’s results are consistent with the outcomes typically seen with Calmare® treatment protocol,” says study author and clinical director of Massey’s Palliative Care Program, Patrick J. Coyne, M.S.N., A.P.R.N., F.A.A.N. “While the trial was a single-arm study, the results were statistically significant and draw attention to the fact that Calmare® therapy may provide significant chronic pain relief and marked improvement in a cancer patient’s quality of life.”

The Calmare® Pain Therapy Device is currently available exclusively to the study’s participants, but Massey hopes to soon offer the device to all patients as standard of care for pain management.

Coyne collaborated on this study with Wen Wan, M.D., Ph.D., member of the Developmental Therapeutics research program at Massey and assistant professor of the Department of Biostatistics at Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU); Patricia Wagner Dodson, R.N., M.A., research nurse at Massey; Craig Swainey, M.D., medical hematologist-oncologist at Massey and assistant professor in the Department of Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Care in the VCU School of Medicine; and Thomas J. Smith, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.A.S.C.O., F.A.A.H.P.M., director of palliative care for Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions.

This study was supported, in part, by Massey’s National Cancer Institute Cancer Center Support Grant P30CA016059.

The full manuscript of this study is available online at:

Written by: Alaina Schneider

Posted on: May 2, 2014

Category: Technology

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