Optimizing delivery of a behavioral pain intervention in cancer patients using a sequential multiple assignment randomized trial SMART

Contemp Clin Trials. 2017 Jun:57:51-57. doi: 10.1016/j.cct.2017.04.001. Epub 2017 Apr 11.


Background/aims: Pain is common in cancer patients and results in lower quality of life, depression, poor physical functioning, financial difficulty, and decreased survival time. Behavioral pain interventions are effective and nonpharmacologic. Traditional randomized controlled trials (RCT) test interventions of fixed time and dose, which poorly represent successive treatment decisions in clinical practice. We utilize a novel approach to conduct a RCT, the sequential multiple assignment randomized trial (SMART) design, to provide comparative evidence of: 1) response to differing initial doses of a pain coping skills training (PCST) intervention and 2) intervention dose sequences adjusted based on patient response. We also examine: 3) participant characteristics moderating intervention responses and 4) cost-effectiveness and practicality.

Methods/design: Breast cancer patients (N=327) having pain (ratings≥5) are recruited and randomly assigned to: 1) PCST-Full or 2) PCST-Brief. PCST-Full consists of 5 PCST sessions. PCST-Brief consists of one 60-min PCST session. Five weeks post-randomization, participants re-rate their pain and are re-randomized, based on intervention response, to receive additional PCST sessions, maintenance calls, or no further intervention. Participants complete measures of pain intensity, interference and catastrophizing.

Conclusions: Novel RCT designs may provide information that can be used to optimize behavioral pain interventions to be adaptive, better meet patients' needs, reduce barriers, and match with clinical practice. This is one of the first trials to use a novel design to evaluate symptom management in cancer patients and in chronic illness; if successful, it could serve as a model for future work with a wide range of chronic illnesses.

Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT02791646.

Keywords: Breast cancer; Novel trial designs; Pain; Pain coping skills training; Smart; Symptom management.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Breast Neoplasms / complications
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / economics
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy / methods*
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Pain Management / economics
  • Pain Management / methods*
  • Pain Measurement

Associated data

  • ClinicalTrials.gov/NCT02791646