chemotherapy nausea

Researchers have outlined a clinical trial protocol to evaluate acupuncture points in acupuncture therapy and evaluate their effectiveness in combating chemotherapy nausea.

Vomiting and nausea are very well-known side effects of chemotherapy. Managing these side effects is challenging because antiemetic drugs have unpleasant side effects. Research has shown that acupuncture has been effective in reducing chemotherapy nausea, vomiting, and fatigue, among other symptoms. In fact, acupuncture has been so beneficial that the National Institute of Health has been recommending its use to overcome the side effects of chemotherapy since 1997.

One critical way to maximize the efficacy of acupuncture is to match the acupoints, the anatomical points on the body that are used for acupuncture. From a clinical perspective, the acupoints ST36 and CV12 have been shown to be the most beneficial and effective acupoints in treating stomach disease. Do these acupoints offer a biological mechanism that could help combat chemotherapy nausea?

Bo Chen’s team of scientists has developed a protocol for a randomized controlled trial to evaluate chemotherapy nausea after acupuncture therapy using either one or a combination of both these acupoints. This work is a protocol for an upcoming trial that will match the different acupoints to the quality of life, depression/anxiety, and other secondary objectives for patients that are undergoing chemotherapy. It will also try to elucidate the biological relevance of these acupoints. This work was recently published in journal Trials.

The trial will be carried out at the Tianjin Medical University Cancer Institute and Hospital in China. Patients that are undergoing radiotherapy and chemotherapy simultaneously will be excluded. Patients who have cancers of the digestive system will not be eligible. Patients with severe liver or kidney function abnormalities will also not be eligible to participate. Furthermore, patients that have pacemakers, serious infections, long-term opioid use, history of mental illness, gastrointestinal obstruction following surgery, brain metastases, and are pregnant or breastfeeding, will also not be eligible to participate in this trial.

A conventional antiemetic will be used as a control group. The other three groups will be given antiemetics in combination with acupuncture at ST36 alone, CV12 alone, and both at ST36 and CV12. The primary outcome of this trial will be to evaluate the duration, frequency, and how severe the chemotherapy nausea is. Secondary outcomes will also be assessed to observe physical, social, emotional, and functional well-being.

This upcoming trial on the use of acupuncture as a treatment for chemotherapy nausea will observe the effects of different acupoints and their biological relevance. The trial is currently in the initial stages of recruiting patients. There is lack of clinical research and evidence that reliably shows whether certain acupoints could improve chemotherapy nausea and if successful, this trial will be a great advance in this field.

Written by Ingrid Qemo, BSc

Reference: Chen, B., Guo, Y., Zhao, X., Gao, L., Li, B., Zhao, T., Zhang, Q., Zou, J., Li, M., Guo, Y., Guo, Y., and Pan, X. (2017). Efficacy differences of electroacupuncture with single acupoints or matching acupoints for chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting: study protocol for randomized controlled trial. Trials. 18:477

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