Department of Symptom Research

Treating cancer-related symptoms has become a priority for cancer treatment centers. MD Anderson's Department of Symptom Research is at the forefront of discovering new ways of assessing and managing the symptoms of cancer and its treatment, identifying the mechanisms that cause these symptoms, and developing new or refining existing interventions that reduce symptom severity or prevent symptom occurrence.

We have developed validated symptom assessment tools for clinical and research use by health care professionals around the world.



In 2012, the Department of Symptom Research expanded its reach to include a basic science research lab, the Neuroimmunology of Cancer-Related Symptoms (NICRS) Laboratory, headed by Drs. Robert Dantzer, Annemieke Kavelaars, and Cobi Heijnen.

The Department of Symptom Research strives to:

  • Improve management of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms in patients with cancer
  • Enhance understanding of the prevalence, severity, and treatment of symptoms
  • Discover the underlying mechanisms of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms
  • Understand the pathophysiology of cancer therapy-induced neurobehavioral toxicity
  • Improve symptom management through evidence-based clinical trials
  • Promote optimal symptom control and palliative care nationally and internationally

Our research focuses on educational, behavioral, and medical interventions for pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. Laboratory and neuroimaging studies are exploring the neurophysiological mechanisms of both pain and fatigue.

Charles S. Cleeland, PhD, founded the Pain Research group in 1979 at the University of Wisconsin, and soon became an internationally recognized expert on the assessment and treatment of cancer pain. Dr. Cleeland and the Pain Research Group relocated to MD Anderson in 1996. In March 2002, the Pain Research Group became the Department of Symptom Research. The department integrates laboratory research to develop animal models of pain, fatigue and cognitive impairment with descriptive research and intervention trials in patients.

Since 2002, the department has enjoyed increased visibility and grant support from federal agencies and private foundations like the World Health Organization and the American Cancer Society. We collaborate with medical specialties who confront pain and other cancer-related symptoms in the patient population--medicine, diagnostic radiology, pharmacy, neuro-oncology, radiation oncology, and nursing.

Related News

Symptom Research hosts national colloquium on developing strategies for reducing cancer treatment-related toxicities and symptoms. Read more...

 Cancer Symptom Science

Announcing the publication of Cancer Symptom Science, an interdisciplinary, first-of-its-kind compilation of research on the mechanisms underlying the expression of cancer-related symptoms. Read more...

Old Drugs, New Possibilities (Conquest, Fall 2008)

Symptom Research Awarded NIH P01 Grant (Division of Internal Medicine Newsletter, Summer 2008)

Symptom Research and Psychometrics (Network, Summer 2008)