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Pain relief in palliative care of cancer using home-based neuromodulation and predictive biomarkers

Project description

Non-invasive cancer pain relief with neuromodulation

Pain is a common experience among cancer patients. According to estimates, more than half of cancer patients develop pain before death. While the majority can be treated with drugs, about 20 % may experience low response or adverse effects from medication. The EU-funded PAINLESS project will improve the knowledge of the variables that predict the occurrence of oncological pain and will provide a cost-effective and non-invasive solution for cancer patients suffering from chronic pain. It will investigate the role of central pain modulation mechanisms and the feasibility of using transcranial low-intensity electric stimulation at home for reducing pain in palliative care. The project will also design a web portal to monitor cancer patients’ status, and perform techno-economic analysis and health technology assessment of its proposal to improve the management of oncological pain.


More than 50% of cancer patients develop pain before death: 80% can be treated with drugs, but 20% show a low response or have serious adverse effects. Although non-pharmacological interventions such as neurosurgical procedures have been tested, these alternatives are not a preferred option to treat cancer pain due to their high cost, risk, invasiveness and not always proven efficacy.
PAINLESS addresses a core component of pain relief, by using an innovative, evidence-based approach. The objective is to adapt and implement a novel, cost-effective, home-based intervention based on neuromodulation to reduce pain and improve quality of life of cancer patients with chronic pain. On the assumption that treatment of chronic pain can benefit from research on the brain mechanisms of pain, we will first attempt to improve our understanding of the role of central pain modulation.
The project will be organized in 3 studies: 1) A cohort, longitudinal study (n=450) to explore whether the biomarkers of central pain modulation mechanisms can be predictive of the future occurrence of chronic pain in cancer patients; 2) A cross-sectional study to characterize and stratify cancer patients with vs. without chronic pain (750 patients with the proposed biomarkers and taking into account a number of moderator variables); 3) A pilot study (n=450) to assess the feasibility an efficacy of at-home delivery of transcranial low intensity electric stimulation (tES) for the palliative care of cancer patients suffering from pain
PAINLESS will develop a customized web portal to share knowledge and to improve management of the patients; perform techno-economic analyses and Health Technology Assessment of the solution; analyze the possibilities of implementation in different European healthcare systems and results exploitation; and undertake an ambitious dissemination and communication strategy. We will also propose a wide range of measures to ensure compliance with the highest ethical standars.


Net EU contribution
€ 892 898,00
15782 Santiago De Compostela

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Noroeste Galicia A Coruña
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
Total cost
€ 892 898,75

Participants (17)

Partners (1)