Cancer Researchers Study 'Scrambler Therapy' for Pain Relief
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Madison, Wisconsin - University of Wisconsin Carbone Cancer Center researchers are testing an innovative pain therapy system for patients with nerve pain following chemotherapy, a condition called painful chemotherapy induced peripheral neuropathy.
|Video: Cancer physician Toby Campbell talks about the clinical trial of the device nicknamed "The Scrambler" being done at the UW Carbone Cancer Center (courtesy NBC-15).
"Up to 40 percent of patients who receive chemotherapy develop neuropathy that can be so debilitating that patients lose function and quality of life," said Dr. Toby Campbell, assistant professor of medicine at the UW School of Medicine and Public Health (UWSMPH).
"There are no treatment options for post-chemotherapy nerve pain and none which have been proven effective in a randomized trial."
In patients with painful neuropathy, the pain is the disease since the injury ended, usually months or years before.
Campbell, an oncologist, is testing a pain therapy device called the MC-5A. This machine uses electrodes to deliver very slight electrical stimulation on the skin and send a "no pain" signal back to the brain.
Campbell, the lead investigator, is working with UW-Madison biomedical engineer Tom Yen and Dr. Miroslav Backonja, UW School of Medicine and Public Health professor of neurology and international leader in the field of peripheral neuropathies, through a grant from the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research (ICTR).
The MC-5A has been tested against narcotics in three clinical trials involving patients with neuropathic pain syndrome. The trials showed the device provided impressive pain reductions compared to narcotics.
Although manufacturers of the device say it has been used to treat more than 3,000 patients with neuropathic pain syndrome, it has not been tested in a true placebo-controlled, double-blind randomized controlled trial.
"That's why the collaboration with a biomedical engineer was critical," said Campbell. "Tom Yen was able to create a reliable placebo to use with the device."
Neither the patients nor the researcher will know who receives the actual treatment or the placebo. A research assistant, who is aware of the assigned treatment, delivers the appropriate therapy.
Forty patients with moderate to severe chronic neuropathic pain caused by chemotherapy will be part of the trial. Campbell hopes that the next step will be a large-scale trial across several research centers.
Date Published: 10/20/2011