For many people who have had cancer, severe pain can persist, even after treatment ends. In an effort to find a nonpharmaceutical approach to pain management for cancer survivors, researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Health have been awarded $6 million from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to test the effectiveness of a Web-based pain management program. The 5-year grant is a supplement to the $25 million grant Wake Forest Baptist received earlier this year from NCI’s Community Oncology Research Program. The funding for this research is provided by the National Institutes of Health as part of its Helping to End Addiction Long-Term Initiative to stem the national opioid public health crisis.
Donald B. Penzien, PhD
“On average, as many as 40% of people who go through cancer treatment are left with some kind of residual and persistent pain,” said Donald B. Penzien, PhD, Principal Investigator of the study and Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist.
Previous research has shown that therapist-administered, pain-coping skills training can help people with cancer better deal with their pain and can also help them reduce fatigue and improve sleep and mood.
The PainTRAINER program, which was developed by co-investigators of this research grant, simulates in-person, pain-coping training sessions through an online program. The study will test whether this approach improves coping strategies and function and decreases pain and pain medication use in cancer survivors who have completed treatment yet still experience modest-to-severe pain most days of the week.
People enrolled in the clinical trial will attend a single clinic visit. During this visit, they will watch a video about cancer pain control, receive printed educational materials addressing cancer pain, and receive log-in instructions for the PainTRAINER website.
Participants then will complete eight online modules at home, one per week, led by a virtual coach. Topics will include various pain-control practices such as progressive relaxation, imagery and distraction methods, and techniques to identify and change negative thoughts.
To enroll in the trial, people must be 18 years of age or older, at least 3 months post-treatment, and still having significant cancer- or treatment-related pain. All enrolled study participants will continue to receive their usual medical care throughout the trial.