Improving quality of life for cancer patients

September 8, 2017

Each year over 650,000 cancer patients undergo chemotherapy according to the Center for Disease Control. The treatment, while life-saving, often leaves patients in severe pain. Associate Professor Kathleen Griffith thinks that exercise may lead to a solution. As principal investigator for an ongoing National Institutes of Health (NIH) study conducted at the Baltimore Veterans Affairs hospital, Dr. Griffith is investigating whether exercise effectively reduces pain associated with chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).

Dr. Griffith and her collaborators on the NIH study, “Exercise Effect on Chemotherapy-Induced Neuropathic Pain, Peripheral Nerve Fibers,” are currently recruiting and enrolling participants to measure pain reduction through patient self-reporting, quantitative sensory testing and examining neurofibers.

A longtime health care provider, Dr. Griffith still maintains a clinical practice in oncology, which inspired Dr. Griffith to pursue research on the effects of cancer treatment, CIPN measurement and management, and weight gain. While patients may respond well to cancer treatments in terms of their diagnosis, she has seen many remain riddled with symptoms they can’t overcome, Dr. Griffith said.

“This research may help reduce their symptom burden and improve their quality of life,” she said.

A GW CDFR award is enabling Dr. Griffith and other GW colleagues to look at the history of CIPN development and cognitive decline for patients undergoing treatment for colon and breast cancer

“Chemotherapy-Induced Central and Peripheral Nervous System Toxicities: Evaluating Common Associations” is a collaboration with GW Nursing’s Dr. Maritza Dowling, GW Neuropsychology’s Dr. Antonio Puente, and oncologists Drs. Lauren Mauro and Holly Dushkin. The exploratory study tracks when chemotherapy begins, and when CIPN manifests.

Dr. Griffith believes that the interprofessional nature of the teams working on these grants demonstrates that advancement in practice can occur when interdisciplinary health care teams work together to deliver high-quality patient care.