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17-09-2017 | Multiple myeloma | Article

Acupuncture for reduction of symptom burden in multiple myeloma patients undergoing autologous hematopoietic stem cell transplantation: a randomized sham-controlled trial

Supportive Care in Cancer

Authors: Gary Deng, Sergio Giralt, David J. Chung, Heather Landau, Jonathan Siman, Benjamin Search, Marci Coleton, Emily Vertosick, Nathan Shapiro, Christine Chien, Xin S. Wang, Barrie Cassileth, Jun J. Mao

Publisher: Springer Berlin Heidelberg



Hematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HCT) is potentially curative for a number of hematologic malignancies, but is associated with high symptom burden. We conducted a randomized sham-controlled trial (RCT) to evaluate efficacy and safety of acupuncture as an integrative treatment for managing common symptoms during HCT.


Adult patients with multiple myeloma undergoing high-dose melphalan followed by autologous HCT (AHCT) were randomized to receive either true or sham acupuncture once daily for 5 days starting the day after chemotherapy. Patients and clinical evaluators, but not acupuncturists, were blinded to group assignment. Symptom burden, the primary outcome was assessed with the MD Anderson Symptom Inventory (MDASI) at baseline, during transplantation, and at 15 and 30 days post transplantation.


Among 60 participants, true acupuncture produced nonsignificant reductions in overall MDASI core symptom scores and symptom interference scores during transplantation (P = .4 and .3, respectively), at 15 days (P = .10 and .3), and at 30 days posttransplantation (P = .2 and .4) relative to sham. However, true acupuncture was significantly more efficacious in reducing nausea, lack of appetite, and drowsiness at 15 days (P = .042, .025, and .010, respectively). Patients receiving sham acupuncture were more likely to increase pain medication use posttransplantation (odds ratio 5.31, P = .017).


Acupuncture was well tolerated with few attributable adverse events. True acupuncture may prevent escalation of symptoms including nausea, lack of appetite, and drowsiness experienced by patients undergoing AHCT, and reduce the use of pain medications. These findings need to be confirmed in a future definitive study.

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