Coping Therapies Unlikely to Ease Kids' Stem Cell Treatment: Study

MONDAY July 12, 2010 -- For children undergoing stem cell transplantation, complementary therapies such as massage and humor therapy don't seem to reduce their distress, researchers found.

Stem cell transplantation is used to treat cancer and other illnesses, and it is a prolonged and physically demanding process that often causes children and their families high levels of distress, the authors of the study noted. Previous studies have shown that complementary therapies, such as hypnosis and massage, can sometimes help adult patients cope with stem cell transplantation.

The results of the new U.S. study, which included 178 children undergoing stem cell transplantation at four medical centers, were released online July 12 in advance of publication in an upcoming print issue of the journal Cancer.

The participants were randomly assigned to different groups, including: a child-targeted intervention involving massage and humor therapy; the same child intervention program plus a parent intervention program involving massage and relaxation/imagery; or standard care.

The intervention programs began upon hospital admission and continued through the third week of the stem cell transplantation treatment. The children and their parents were evaluated for distress and mood problems each week from the time of admission through the sixth week.

The complementary therapies didn't produce significant benefits for the children, the study authors found. And although this finding doesn't prove that the interventions don't work, the results do raise questions about the benefits of such therapies for children undergoing stem cell transplantation, team leader Sean Phipps of St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis noted in a news release from the journal's publisher.

Overall, the levels of distress among the children undergoing stem cell transplantation were low, the researchers added, which suggests that they likely do well with standard supportive care.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about stem cell transplants for cancer.

Posted: July 2010


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