- Acupuncture can reduce joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitor in breast cancer patients
- Acupuncture is the new alternative approach reduces joint pain without the use of opioids or other drugs
- Acupuncture has durable beneficial effects and has no side effects
Acupuncture can significantly reduce the debilitating joint pain in women who are being treated for early stage breast cancer, reveals a new study.
A randomized, blinded, multicenter trial that is also known as S1200 was conducted by scientists from SWOG, the global cancer clinical trials network, which was funded by the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
‘Acupuncture, the new alternative approach can reduce joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitor in breast cancer patients without the use of opioids or other drugs.’
The trial was done to check if acupuncture was effective in alleviating pain that is caused by aromatase inhibitors, which is a common treatment for hormone-sensitive breast cancer.
The top priority of this cancer research is to treat this pain effectively without using opioids or any other drugs.
Aromatase Inhibitors in Breast Cancer
Every year, tens of thousands women are being treated with aromatase inhibitors (AIs). These pills halt the production of estrogen and starve hormone receptor-positive breast cancer cells.
Few women are advised to take these pills daily for up to 10 years. About 50 percent of women experience joint pain and stiffness. The side effects can also cause pain in the knees, hips, hands, and wrists making it difficult for women to walk or sit or climb stairs, and perform easy tasks like typing or driving.
Dr. Dawn Hershman, the lead researcher of this study and a SWOG vice chair, said that some of his patients have the difficulty of getting off a chair.
She also said, "As a result, with no good treatment options for their pain and stiffness, many women stop their cancer treatment. This is probably the most commonly cited reason breast cancer patients stop taking AI medication. So we need a solution, one that doesn't include opioids or drugs that can be addictive or have serious side effects. We want women to continue their cancer treatment and have a good quality of life."
SWOG research team has been chasing to relieve AI pain for years, which is known as AI-Associated Musculoskeletal Syndrome (AIMSS).
Dr. N. Lynn Henry, a SWOG investigator from Huntsman Cancer Institute and co-chair of SWOG's Symptom Control and Quality of Life committee presented his findings last year at San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The results showed that the drug duloxetine, which is used to treat depression and anxiety, can efficiently treat AIMSS as well.
Impact of Acupuncture
Hershman, leader of the Breast Cancer Program at the Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and a professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia said that many women do not prefer taking pills to relieve the symptoms caused by other pills.
In a single-center study at Columbia, acupuncture was found to show potential promise.
However, Hershman wanted to test the effects in much larger group and she, and her team included about 226 patients from 11 cancer centers nationwide. They were randomly assigned to one of the three arms, where one group received true acupuncture, the second group received sham acupuncture, and the third group received no treatment at all.
Sham acupuncture is superficially inserting needles in different, non-therapeutic locations on the body.
Patients were treated twice in a week for six weeks. Later, they were given a weekly maintenance treatment for another six weeks.
Promising Results of Acupuncture
The research team investigated the patients for their pain before, during, and after treatment by using a variety of methods.
The primary indicator of this trial was to check the patient's level of worst pain, measured using the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI-WP) at the end of the first six weeks.
The research team observed that the patients experienced less pain on the acupuncture arm than those with the sham and treatment-free arms. The patients in this study experienced relief for about 24 weeks.
Dr. Katherine Crew, a SWOG executive officer, director of the Clinical Breast Cancer Prevention Program at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University Irving Medical Center and an associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia and a co-investigator on the study team said that this study strongly proves that acupuncture results in better outcomes for women.
"I expect this work to influence medical practice, as well as insurers' willingness to reimburse for acupuncture during AI treatment," said Dr. Crew.
The Symposium was sponsored by the Cancer Therapy & Research Center (CTRC) at UT Health Science Center San Antonio, the American Association for Cancer Research (AACR), and Baylor College of Medicine.
- Katherine D. Crew, Jillian L. Capodice, et al. Randomized, Blinded, Sham-Controlled Trial of Acupuncture for the Management of Aromatase Inhibitor-Associated Joint Symptoms in Women With Early-Stage Breast Cancer. Journal of Clinical Oncology (2010)DOI: 10.1200/JCO.2009.23.4708