Testing the Effects of Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS) on Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy (CIPN)

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  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    University of Rochester NCORP Research Base
Updated on 5 March 2022
spinal cord
peripheral neuropathy
vinca alkaloid


This phase II trial studies the effects of transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) for the treatment of peripheral neuropathy caused by chemotherapy, often called chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN). Peripheral neuropathy refers to the conditions that result when nerves that carry messages to and from the brain and spinal cord from and to the rest of the body are damaged or diseased. The TENS device emits high frequency electrical stimulation through the skin and may provide relief from chronic pain.



I. Obtain efficacy estimates of daily TENS on CIPN (European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer-CIPN20 [EORTC-CIPN20]) to inform the design of a phase III confirmatory trial.


I. Obtain efficacy estimates of TENS on individual CIPN symptoms (i.e., hot/burning pain, sharp/shooting pain, tingling, numbness, cramping (measured daily via 0 - 10 numeric rating scale [NRS]).

II. Evaluate the feasibility of conducting, within the University of Rochester Cancer Center (URCC) National Cancer Institute Community Oncology Research Program (NCORP) network, a multisite, modified double-blind randomized control trial (RCT) of TENS for CIPN with physiologic assessments of descending inhibition (i.e., conditioned pain modulation [CPM] test) by assessing the proportions of (a) screened patients who enroll, (b) randomized participants who adhere to the treatment and complete the primary assessment, and (c) randomized participants who complete the CPM test.


I. Investigate the potential effects of TENS on balance, physical function, descending inhibition, lower limb sensation, and anxiety and depression.

II. Establish data to support the construct validity of the Treatment-Induced Neuropathy Assessment Scale (TNAS) and CIPN symptom inventory daily diary by comparison to the EORTC-CIPN20, which is the most commonly used measure of CIPN.

OUTLINE: Patients are randomized to 1 of 2 groups.

GROUP I: Patients wear an active wireless TENS device 5 hours daily for up to 6 weeks in the absence of unacceptable toxicity.

GROUP II: Patients wear a placebo wireless TENS device 5 hours daily for up to 6 weeks in the absence of unacceptable toxicity.

Condition Chemotherapy-Induced Peripheral Neuropathy
Treatment questionnaire administration, Placebo Administration, Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04367480
SponsorUniversity of Rochester NCORP Research Base
Last Modified on5 March 2022


Yes No Not Sure

Inclusion Criteria

Have completed treatment with a platinum agent, taxane, vinca alkaloid, or bortezomib at least 3 months prior to registration
Have a clinical diagnosis of CIPN from their physician or physician designee based on the following criteria: bilateral (i.e., present on both sides of the body), abnormal sensory symptoms in their feet or legs (e.g., hot/burning pain, sharp/shooting pain, numbness, tingling, cramping)
Report at least 1 non-painful symptom associated with CIPN in their lower limbs (e.g., tingling, burning that isn't reported as painful, numbness)
Report at least 2 of the following symptoms in their lower limbs (at their worst) as at least 4 out of 10 on a 0 - 10 NRS: hot/burning pain, sharp/shooting pain, numbness, tingling, cramping at visit 1 (i.e., week -1). Use the CIPN Symptom Inventory - week recall form (questions 1-5 ONLY) to assess these symptoms at screening
Be willing and able not to start any new analgesic medications or change the dosages of any current analgesic medications (except acetaminophen [Tylenol] or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs] [i.e., ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve)]) for the duration of the study
Be able to read English (i.e., is not illiterate, can speak English, and is not blind)
Have access to a smart phone or device with an Apple or Android operating system that can be used to access the TENS device's application (App) and ability to connect to the internet on a daily basis during the trial

Exclusion Criteria

Have pre-existing neuropathy of any cause documented in their medical record prior to the start of chemotherapy or respond "yes" to the question "Did you have frequent numbness, tingling, sharp/shooting pain, hot/burning pain, or cramping in your feet before you started your chemotherapy?
Have unilateral CIPN symptoms (i.e., symptoms occur on predominantly only one side of the body)
Be currently using a TENS device for any other reason
Be currently taking, or have taken in the past 3 months, medications known to cause neuropathy in a significant portion of patients
Have an acute and symptomatic lower extremity deep vein thrombosis (DVT) (treated DVT with resolution of symptoms is acceptable for enrollment)
Lower extremity edema that is 2+ or greater (i.e., slight indentation that takes less than 15 seconds to rebound)
Have started a new prescription pain medication or altered dosages of a prescription pain medication within the last 2 weeks
Have lower extremity wounds or ulcers
Have a cardiac pace maker or defibrillator
Have epilepsy
Have a leg that is too small or too large for the TENS device to fit securely
Have missing lower limbs or amputations
Have impaired decision making capacity (i.e., requires a legally authorized representative or health care proxy)
Be pregnant or planning to get pregnant before expected completion of the study
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