New way to reduce pain for breast cancer surgery patients

28/07/2020 | 3 mins

A researcher from The University of Western Australia will trial anaesthetic infusions in breast surgery patients to reduce persistent pain after surgery.

The results of the trial could make an enormous difference to the lives of patients undergoing treatment for breast cancer, by assisting their post-operative recovery and making follow-up treatment more comfortable.

UWA Clinical Professor Tomas Corcoran, Consultant Anaesthetist and Director of Research at the Department of Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine in Royal Perth Hospital, was awarded a Medical Research Future Fund Grant of $4.3 million in a joint project with Monash University to study the long-term outcomes of these infusions.

The trial is one of 10 projects focused on neurological disorders funded by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, to a total value of $21.8 million.

Persistent pain after surgery and radiotherapy affects up to half of patients who have undergone breast cancer treatment. Researchers believe the pain could be prevented or reduced by using one particular anaesthetic agent, lidocaine.

The project will examine the long-term outcomes of lidocaine infusions for persistent postoperative pain in patients undergoing breast surgery (LOLIPOP).

Professor Corcoran said that postoperative pain could be a particular problem following surgical treatment for breast cancer.

“Pain that persists long after surgical treatment has been completed is a condition that we are only starting to get to grips with in the past few years,” Professor Corcoran said.

“It is common, can be incapacitating and prevention is better than trying to treat it once it develops. 

"Our hope is that this novel approach to delivering lidocaine may offer real hope to the many women who continue to develop pain after breast cancer surgery."

Clinical Professor Tomas Corcoran

Through the trial, Professor Corcoran hopes to understand why patients may or may not respond to this type of treatment.

“A really exciting innovation in this study, is that we will examine the genetic makeup of patients liver enzymes to determine whether this might explain why some patients respond and others may not,” Professor Corcoran said.

Breast cancer surgeon Professor Christobel Saunders said she was excited the trial had the potential to bring significant benefits to many of the 20,000 Australian women diagnosed each year with breast cancer.

“Ensuring women have fewer pain problems after breast cancer treatment not only improves quality of life but allows women to face the myriad other challenges of a cancer diagnosis and treatment,” Professor Saunders said.

The partnership is strengthened by the Australia and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Clinical Trials Network, a large network of anaesthetists and hospitals who perform large clinical trials and pioneer evidence based treatments in perioperative medicine.

Media references

Anna-Lee Harry, UWA Media & PR Adviser, 08 6488 7975

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