Background: Oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy is a major first-line conventional therapy for advanced and metastatic colorectal cancer (CRC). However, oxaliplatin causes chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). Acupuncture has long been used to alleviate limb numbness in Chinese medicine practice.
Aim: The aim of this study was to examine the efficacy and safety of electroacupuncture (EA) for the alleviation of CIPN in CRC patients.
Design: This was a pilot single-blinded, randomized, sham-controlled trial.
Setting/participants: Sixty eligible patients, who had been diagnosed with CRC and were undergoing oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy, were randomized in a ratio of 1:1 to the EA intervention group or sham acupuncture (SA) control group. During a 12-week treatment period, patients in the EA group received EA once a week, while patients in the SA group received SA; both groups were followed up for 12 weeks.
Results: Compared with the SA group, the EA group exhibited significant alleviation of CIPN severity during chemotherapy. Moreover, EA also improved the physical function, role function, and social function of CRC patients. However, there were no significant differences in tests of vibration or light touch sensation. In addition, EA appeared to be a safe treatment for CIPN and was both feasible and acceptable to CRC patients during chemotherapy.
Conclusion: This study showed preliminary evidence for the efficacy and safety of EA in acute CIPN among CRC patients, although further studies are needed to verify these effects and to further explore the potential role of EA in chronic CIPN (effects on which remain unclear).
Trial registration number: NCT03582423 (ClinicalTrials.gov).
Keywords: acupuncture; chemotherapy; colorectal cancer; oxaliplatin; peripheral neuropathy; randomized controlled trial.