While early detection and chemotherapy have saved lives from breast cancer, some patients develop neuropathy (nerve pain, numbness or tingling) that is a side effect of certain chemotherapy drugs. While it nearly always goes away, that can take several years for some patients.
Nurses at the University of Maryland Marlene and Stewart Greenebaum Cancer Center (UMGCC) know how devastating this neuropathy can be to their patients, and now they’re playing a role in eliminating it. Nancy Gambill, MS, CRNP, director of nursing for the cancer center, and Susan Dorsey, PhD, RN, associate professor at the University of Maryland School of Nursing, are co-principal investigators of a research project trying to determine which types of patients are most at risk for this type of pain, why they are at risk, and how the damage can be lessened or stopped one day.
Not only has the project succeeded in gathering important data from the patients at the Medical Center, the collaborative partnership between the academic (Dorsey and other research partners) and the front-line clinical nurses (Gambill and her staff) has netted the project additional grant money from the National Institutes of Health. The project also led to funding for a multidisciplinary pain research center – the University of Maryland Center for Pain Studies – at the University of Maryland School of Nursing. The center, for which Dorsey is the director and principal investigator, brings together faculty and clinical researchers from the schools of medicine, pharmacy and dentistry, as well as clinical leaders from the Medical Center, especially the UMGCC.