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Original Investigation
March 18, 2021

Effectiveness of Electroacupuncture or Auricular Acupuncture vs Usual Care for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain Among Cancer Survivors: The PEACE Randomized Clinical Trial

Author Affiliations
  • 1Integrative Medicine Service, Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
  • 2Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
  • 3Department of Family Medicine and Public Health, University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, San Diego
  • 4Department of Medicine, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, New York
  • 5Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, Michael J. Crescenz VA Medical Center, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
JAMA Oncol. 2021;7(5):720-727. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2021.0310
Visual Abstract. Effectiveness of Electroacupuncture or Auricular Acupuncture for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain Among Cancer Survivors
Effectiveness of Electroacupuncture or Auricular Acupuncture for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain Among Cancer Survivors
Key Points

Question  Does electroacupuncture or auricular acupuncture reduce chronic musculoskeletal pain among cancer survivors?

Findings  In this randomized clinical trial of 360 diverse cancer survivors, patients receiving electroacupuncture and auricular acupuncture had significantly greater reductions in pain scores from baseline to week 12 compared with patients receiving usual care. However, auricular acupuncture was not noninferior to electroacupuncture, and patients receiving it had more adverse events.

Meaning  Electroacupuncture and auricular acupuncture are more effective than usual care at reducing chronic musculoskeletal pain in cancer survivors.

Abstract

Importance  The opioid crisis creates challenges for cancer pain management. Acupuncture confers clinical benefits for chronic nonmalignant pain, but its effectiveness in cancer survivors remains uncertain.

Objective  To determine the effectiveness of electroacupuncture or auricular acupuncture for chronic musculoskeletal pain in cancer survivors.

Design, Setting, and Participants  The Personalized Electroacupuncture vs Auricular Acupuncture Comparative Effectiveness (PEACE) trial is a randomized clinical trial that was conducted from March 2017 to October 2019 (follow-up completed April 2020) across an urban academic cancer center and 5 suburban sites in New York and New Jersey. Study statisticians were blinded to treatment assignments. The 360 adults included in the study had a prior cancer diagnosis but no current evidence of disease, reported musculoskeletal pain for at least 3 months, and self-reported pain intensity on the Brief Pain Inventory (BPI) ranging from 0 (no pain) to 10 (worst pain imaginable).

Interventions  Patients were randomized 2:2:1 to electroacupuncture (n = 145), auricular acupuncture (n = 143), or usual care (n = 72). Intervention groups received 10 weekly sessions of electroacupuncture or auricular acupuncture. Ten acupuncture sessions were offered to the usual care group from weeks 12 through 24.

Main Outcomes and Measures  The primary outcome was change in average pain severity score on the BPI from baseline to week 12. Using a gatekeeping multiple-comparison procedure, electroacupuncture and auricular acupuncture were compared with usual care using a linear mixed model. Noninferiority of auricular acupuncture to electroacupuncture was tested if both interventions were superior to usual care.

Results  Among 360 cancer survivors (mean [SD] age, 62.1 [12.7] years; mean [SD] baseline BPI score, 5.2 [1.7] points; 251 [69.7%] women; and 88 [24.4%] non-White), 340 (94.4%) completed the primary end point. Compared with usual care, electroacupuncture reduced pain severity by 1.9 points (97.5% CI, 1.4-2.4 points; P < .001) and auricular acupuncture reduced by 1.6 points (97.5% CI, 1.0-2.1 points; P < .001) from baseline to week 12. Noninferiority of auricular acupuncture to electroacupuncture was not demonstrated. Adverse events were mild; 15 of 143 (10.5%) patients receiving auricular acupuncture and 1 of 145 (0.7%) patients receiving electroacupuncture discontinued treatments due to adverse events (P < .001).

Conclusions and Relevance  In this randomized clinical trial among cancer survivors with chronic musculoskeletal pain, electroacupuncture and auricular acupuncture produced greater pain reduction than usual care. However, auricular acupuncture did not demonstrate noninferiority to electroacupuncture, and patients receiving it had more adverse events.

Trial Registration  ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT02979574

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    1 Comment for this article
    Traditional Acupuncture?
    Deborah Boyar, Ph.D. | None
    I'm curious why traditional acupuncture was not tested -- why only electroacupuncture and auricular? Thank you.
    CONFLICT OF INTEREST: None Reported
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