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The Pain Research Group (PRG) is a multidisciplinary group dedicated to improving the assessment and treatment of the symptoms experienced by patients with cancer. The PRG is staffed by five full-time faculty and twenty-one full-time and part-time personnel. Collaborating investigators in PRG studies include members from various fields including medicine, diagnostic radiology, pharmacy, neuro-oncology, radiation oncology, and nursing. The PRG also works with various collaborative research and clinical organizations to accomplish its goals, including the Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group (ECOG) and the Radiation Therapy Oncology Group.

Symptom Assessment

Primary accomplishments of the PRG include the development and validation of tools for the rapid assessment of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms experienced by patients with cancer. Charles S. Cleeland, PhD and the Pain Research Group developed the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) in 1989. Since this time, the BPI has been translated into seventeen languages, and has been widely used in both research and clinical settings.

In 1997, the PRG began to look at a new symptom -- cancer-related fatigue. Cancer-related fatigue is easily one of the most frequently reported symptoms of cancer patients. However, little is known about the causes, effects or treatment of this symptom. Using the remarkable progress in the understanding and treatment of cancer pain as a model, researchers in the PRG developed and validated a tool for the rapid and easy assessment of fatigue, the Brief Fatigue Inventory (BFI). Dr. Carmen Escalante, Associate Professor, Chief, Section of General Internal Medicine, and Dr. Cleeland developed a framework for a fatigue clinic. Goals for the clinic include identifying the etiology of fatigue and appropriate treatment protocols. In its first year of operation, the clinic saw 43 patients. In 1998, the M. D. Anderson Fatigue Initiative was formed. This group of healthcare professionals represents a broad spectrum of disciplines interested in cancer-related fatigue, including internal medicine, radiation oncology, nursing, physical medicine and rehabilitation, diagnostic imaging, psychiatry, and bioimmunotherapy. In February, 2000, the group organized the first professional meeting solely dedicated to cancer-related fatigue.

In 1999, the PRG developed a tool to assess multiple symptoms (M. D. Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI)) in patients with cancer. The MDASI is being used in several large-scale clinical trials to assess the symptoms of outpatients in their home environment via their telephone.

Current Research

The PRG's current research includes descriptive studies, clinical trials, laboratory studies, and neuroimaging studies on the symptoms experienced by patients with cancer. Our descriptive studies examine the prevalence, severity, and treatment of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms. Our clinical trials focus on the effectiveness of educational, behavioral, and medical interventions on pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. PRG's laboratory and neuroimaging studies explore the neurophysiological mechanisms of pain and fatigue.

Collaborating Center in Supportive Cancer Care

Our international program, organized under the PRG's WHO Collaborating Center in Supportive Cancer Care, is dedicated to providing healthcare professionals with education and research opportunities related to the treatment of pain and other symptoms experienced by cancer patients. In 1993, the PRG partnered with the Ministry of Health's Bureau of Drug Administration and Policy in China to provide five national training seminars and core team training, or a "train-the-trainers" program. The purpose of a "train-the-trainers" program is to offer the latest evidence-based treatment information to physicians and prepare them to train their staff. Future goals for the international program include developing a "train-the-trainers" program for health care professionals in Latin America with the cooperation of the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization.