Methods to Standardize a Multicenter Acupuncture Trial Protocol to Reduce Aromatase Inhibitor-related Joint Symptoms in Breast Cancer Patients.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of acupuncture and meridian studies, Volume 8, Issue 3, p.152-8 (2015)


Robust methods are needed to efficiently conduct large, multisite, randomized, controlled clinical trials of acupuncture protocols. The Southwest Oncology Group (SWOG) S1200 trial is a randomized, controlled (i.e., sham-controlled and waitlist-controlled) trial of a standardized acupuncture protocol for treating aromatase inhibitor (AI)-associated arthralgias in early-stage breast cancer patients (n = 228). The primary objective of this study was to determine whether true acupuncture administered twice weekly for 6 weeks, as compared to sham acupuncture or a waitlist control, reduced AI-associated joint pain at 6 weeks as assessed by patient reports. The study was conducted at 11 institutions across the United States. The true acupuncture protocol was developed using a consensus-based process. The true acupuncture and the sham acupuncture protocols each consisted of 12 sessions administered for 6 weeks, followed by one weekly session for 6 weeks. The true acupuncture protocol used standardized protocol points, and the standardized acupoints were tailored to a patient's joint symptoms. The similarly standardized sham acupuncture protocol utilized superficial needling of nonacupoints. Standardized methods were developed to train and monitor acupuncturists and included online and in-person training, study manuals, monthly phone calls, and remote quality assurance monitoring throughout the study period. The research staff similarly received online and in-person training and monthly phone calls.