MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dawn Hershman, MD, MS, FASCO
Professor of Medicine and Epidemiology
Leader, Breast Cancer Program
Herbert Irving Comprehensive Cancer Center
Columbia University Medical Center
MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?
Response: Aromatase inhibitors are effective in reducing the risk of recurrence in hormone sensitive breast cancer, however they commonly cause joint pain and stiffness that can lead to early discontinuation of treatment. We know that women who stop early do not get the same benefits as those who continue for the full duration.
Acupuncture has been shown to improve a variety of pain syndromes. We conducted a large multicenter trial among women with joint pain on aromatase inhibitors and randomized patients to true acupuncture, sham acupuncture and a waitlist control arm.
We found that acupuncture resulted in more pain reduction than the other 2 control groups. Measuring pain can be challenging in clinical trials. We now know that a meaningful reduction for a patient is 2 points on a 10 point scale. We found that nearly 60 percent of women in the true acupuncture group experienced at least a 2-point reduction in pain, versus 33 percent of the sham acupuncture group and 31 percent of the controls. These results where highly statistically significant.
MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?
Response: For women who are on aromatase inhibitors who are suffering with side effects, they can consider acupuncture as an option to reduce their symptoms.
MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?
Response: If we want to improve the quality of life of breast cancer patients we need to find ways to control side effects without introducing new problems. We clearly want to avoid giving opiate medication, and very few treatments have been effective. We will be studying the blood samples we collected from women who participated to see if we can understand why acupuncture was effective.
I have no disclosures. The study was funded from the National Institute of Health.
Hershman DL, Unger JM, Greenlee H, et al. Effect of Acupuncture vs Sham Acupuncture or Waitlist Control on Joint Pain Related to Aromatase Inhibitors Among Women With Early-Stage Breast CancerA Randomized Clinical Trial. JAMA. 2018;320(2):167–176. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.8907
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