Dawn Hershman, MD, MS, professor of Medicine and Epidemiology, Columbia University Medical Center, discusses the use of acupuncture to treat joint pain caused by aromatase inhibitors in patients with breast cancer.
While aromatase inhibitors are effective in treating the disease, many patients end up discontinuing treatment because of the side effects –arthralgia being the most common.
So, a multicenter randomized trial was organized throughout 11 institutions, where 226 women with breast cancer were randomized to true acupuncture, sham acupuncture (which had some differences than true acupuncture, such as shorter needles that did not puncture skin as deeply), and a waitlist control group. Participants receiving acupuncture received it twice a week until the primary endpoint of 6 weeks. Then they had maintenance acupuncture once a week for another 6 weeks, and were followed up for 12 weeks so researchers could see the duration of the treatment.
True acupuncture was reduced pain more than both the sham acupuncture and the control group. Not only did it reduce pain over a 24-hour period, but it also had positive effects on stiffness, knee pain, hip pain, and hand pain.
Hershman believes that the positive results of this study may help in laying the groundwork for acupuncture to become a lager playing in the treatment strategy for cancer.