The effectiveness and adverse effects profile of "burst" ketamine in refractory cancer pain: The VCOG PM 1-00 study

J Palliat Care. 2010 Autumn;26(3):176-83.


This multi-centre study of adjuvant "burst" ketamine in palliative care in-patients documents its effectiveness, duration of pain relief, and adverse effects (AE) profile. Patients received a three-to-five day continuous subcutaneous infusion (CSCI) of ketamine escalated from 100 to 300 to 500 mg/24 hours if required. When the effective or maximum tolerated dose was attained, the infusion was continued for three days and each patient assessed as a responder or non-responder using strict criteria. The response rate was 22/44 (50 percent), with 4 (9 percent) becoming pain-free. Pain relief lasting two or more weeks was documented in 50 percent of responders. AEs were documented daily using the National Cancer Institute (NCI) Common Toxicity Criteria 0-4 scales. There were 11 grade 3 and 4 neurological AEs. However, no responders elected to cease treatment early due to neurological AEs. We concluded that this protocol in the controlled environment of an in-patient PC unit is relatively safe and simple with reasonable effectiveness.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Multicenter Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics / adverse effects
  • Clinical Protocols
  • Drug Administration Schedule
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infusions, Subcutaneous
  • Ketamine / administration & dosage*
  • Ketamine / adverse effects
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / complications*
  • Pain Measurement
  • Pain, Intractable / diagnosis
  • Pain, Intractable / drug therapy*
  • Pain, Intractable / etiology
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Safety
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Victoria


  • Analgesics
  • Ketamine