The word “cancer” strikes fear in most people. Especially for those living with the disease, fear of cancer pain and diminished quality of life are constant demons haunting patients. Cancer pain is difficult to treat because pain can arise from tumor growth and location, pressure on nerves or as a consequence of treatments, such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery. According to the National Cancer Institute, pain associated with cancer is frequently untreated or undertreated.
William S. Rosenberg, MD, neurosurgeon, founder of the Center for Relief of Pain at Research Medical Center, part of the Midwest Neuroscience Institute, is a renowned, award-winning neurosurgeon whose interests include treatment of chronic and cancer-related pain.
Dr. Rosenberg has assembled the Cancer Pain Clinical Research Consortium comprised of North America’s top cancer physicians and healthcare leaders in medical and radiation oncology, neurosurgery, physiatry, palliative care and pain management to study the issue and devise a standard of care. These leaders come from highly respected cancer centers and institutions such as Dana-Farber Cancer Center, Boston; Ottawa Hospital Cancer Centre, Canada; Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York City; MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston; National Center for Policy Analysis, Dallas; University of Michigan, Ann Arbor; Oregon Health and Science University, Portland; Center for Practical Bioethics, Kansas City; Winship Cancer Center at Emory University, Atlanta; and LSU Health-New Orleans.
The Cancer Pain Clinical Research Consortium’s inaugural meeting is scheduled for April 4 - 5 in Kansas City.
Treating and understanding cancer pain became Dr. Rosenberg’s passion after working with many cancer patients and realizing pain is one of the biggest fears of those with this disease. “Pain is possibly the dominant symptom of many cancers,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “Fifty percent of all cancer patients – and 90 percent of patients with advanced cancer - report significant pain.”
Dr. Rosenberg says for years there have been compartmentalized silos of cancer specialists interacting amongst themselves, but rarely communicating outside their field with other physicians involved in cancer pain treatment. “The Cancer Pain Clinical Research Consortium is a group of institutions and individuals dedicated to the treatment of cancer-related pain, with a well-organized infrastructure designed to facilitate the exchange of information,” he says. “We hope to generate ideas and facilitate quality research focused on the treatment of patients with cancer-related pain.”
Yoshiya Yamada, MD, radiation oncologist, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, says optimal pain management requires the dedicated efforts of a multidisciplinary team of surgical, medical, and radiation oncologists, interventional radiologists, as well as the specialists who have expertise in pain management. “Surprisingly, cancer pain management is a neglected area of research,” says Dr. Yamada. “The Cancer Pain Clinical Research Consortium is a unique opportunity for physicians with different areas of expertise to come together to scientifically study and evaluate cancer pain management strategies and ultimately improve quality of life for cancer patients.”
Michael J. Fisch, MD, MPH, chair of the Department of General Oncology at MD Anderson Cancer Center, notes that The Cancer Pain Clinical Research Consortium has healthy goals with a focus on cancer pain and bringing people together across disciplines. “Cancer pain is a complex clinical issue,” says Dr. Fisch. “In today’s world, with advanced technology, we have more opportunities to collaborate across distance and specialties and to share information for creative, seamless teamwork. Social media will also allow us to engage patients and their families around cancer pain-related topics so they understand there are health professionals thinking and working hard for them, providing hope for a very vexing problem.”
Dr. Fisch says the opportunity for the Consortium to develop a standard of care for treatment of cancer pain is vital to patients and their quality of life. “For patients and their caregivers to have a sense that they aren’t isolated is important to everyone involved in treating cancer. Everyone benefits.”
Dr. Yamada and Dr. Fisch will join other cancer luminaries to begin groundbreaking work on cancer pain through The Cancer Pain Clinical Research Consortium.
“As I talked to my colleagues about this idea and discovered we were literally in the same realm of thought, The Cancer Pain Clinical Research Consortium became a reality,” says Dr. Rosenberg. “There is reason for optimism for patients suffering from often-debilitating cancer pain. Compassionate and effective cancer pain care is a realistic goal and the Consortium is going to make that a reality.”