Future Leaders in Pain Research
2010 Grant Recipient: Jennifer E. Lee, MA
University of Iowa
Iowa City, IA
Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) and Mucositis Cancer Pain
Please state which institution you are currently conducting research.
University of Iowa
How did receiving the Future Leaders in Pain Research Grant impact your career in pain research?
The grant gave me the opportunity to develop expertise in an area I am very passionate about: cancer pain. As a result of being a Principal Investigator in my first clinical trial (with support of my Mentors), I learned how to design and implement a double-blind and placebo-controlled randomized clinical trial, and I developed a better understanding of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) mechanisms and parameters, clinical pain assessment, oral mucositis, the physical and psychological symptoms of head and neck cancer, and how to improve my manuscript and grant writing skills. I also had the opportunity to work with an incredible team of expert interdisciplinary basic and clinical scientists at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics on our mutual goal of improving the lives of head and neck cancer patients, a grossly understudied population with devastating pain. Finally, the grant paved the way for an NIH T32 postdoctoral fellowship in the University of Iowa Interdisciplinary Pain Research Program and 2 additional small grants.
What is your current research focus? Briefly describe the importance of this work and how it advances the APS goals, mission, and your own personal development.
My current research focus still examines the efficacy of TENS for head and neck cancer pain and function. I am also examining the effects of psychological factors (catastrophizing, fear, negative affect, depression, anxiety, somatosensory amplification) on head and neck cancer pain and function, as well as longer term outcomes such as quality of life and survivorship. The data from my research will be used to obtain additional major grant funding to support a clinical trial examining the long-term effectiveness of TENS on pain, function, quality of life, and other clinical outcomes in patients with head and neck cancer. Head and neck cancer poses significant challenges to effective pain management and if non-pharmacologic strategies such as TENS decrease pain and improve function in cancer patients, this could lead to a decline in treatment delays, ER visits, and/or hospitalizations common in this cohort due to their decreased oral intake. Importantly, this research has given head and neck cancer patients hope for relief from the devastating symptoms of head and neck cancer therapies and an opportunity to play a more active role in their medical care. It has also changed my personal approach to life by not taking seemingly meaningless tasks like eating, spending time with loved ones, or taking walks for granted, as many of the patients in this study cannot participate in the enjoyable things in life during cancer treatment.
Are you still an APS member? If yes, do you feel that it has been of value to your professional development?
I am still an APS member and plan to be for the rest of my academic life, and likely even after I retire. APS has been a tremendous contributor to my professional development through this Future Leaders in Pain grant, trainee conference travel grants, and access to cutting edge research published in The Journal of Pain.