Treating cancer-related symptoms has become a priority for cancer centers. MD Anderson's Department of Symptom Research is at the forefront of discovering new ways of identifying the mechanisms underlying the neurotoxicities associated with cancer and its treatment, developing and applying tools to identify and monitor the symptoms of cancer and its treatment, and developing new or refining existing interventions that reduce symptom severity or prevent symptom occurrence.
Our overall aims are to increase the tolerability of cancer therapies and to reduce the negative impact of treatment-related symptoms for cancer survivors.
Through interdisciplinary basic science and clinical research, we strive to:
- Discover underlying mechanisms of the neurotoxicities, including pain, fatigue, and cognitive impairment, that result from cancer and its treatment
- Enhance the identification of the prevalence, severity, and treatment of symptoms via patient-reported outcomes, and to promote this effort nationally and internationally
- Improve the management of pain, fatigue, and other symptoms experienced by patients with cancer through evidence-based clinical trials
Our two-pronged translational approach encompasses preclinical and clinical research in an integrated program that ranges from bedside to bench and from bench to bedside.
Symptom Science Textbook
Cancer Symptom Science: Measurement, Mechanisms, and Management
Charles Cleeland, Michael Fisch, and Adrian Dunn, Editors
Cancer Symptom Science is an interdisciplinary, first-of-its-kind compilation of research on the mechanisms underlying the expression of cancer-related symptoms. It presents innovations in clinical, animal and in vitro research, research methods in brain imaging, and statistical-descriptive approaches to understanding the mechanistic basis of symptom expression. This volume also provides perspectives from patients, government and industry.
The book promotes a pioneering framework for merging behavioral and biological disciplines to clarify mechanisms of symptom evolution, incorporating new technologies, testing novel agents for symptom control, and improving patient functioning and quality of life both during and after cancer treatment.
Cancer Symptom Science is available in hardcover and e-book formats through Cambridge University Press and at bookstores online.
A Chinese-language version is being developed for sale in mainland China. Expected publication date is December 2019.
Cobi J. Heijnen, Ph.D. is the chair of the Symptom Research department. Heijnen joined our faculty as a Professor in 2012. She is one of three Principal Investigators leading the department's Neuroimmunology Laboratory, along with Annemieke Kavelaars, Ph.D., and Robert Dantzer, D.V.M., Ph.D. For the 15 years prior to joining MD Anderson, Heijnen served as Professor of Neuroimmunology and Chair of the Psychoneuroimmunology department at the University Medical Center Utrecht in the Netherlands.
Heijnen is one of the founding scientists of the field of psychoneuroimmunology. Her research focuses on cellular and molecular mechanisms of neuronal damage, rodent cognition and motoric behavior and therapeutic targets as neuroprotectants. Her more recent work seeks to understand the mechanisms and treatment of cancer-related stress, pain, fatigue and chemotherapy-induced cognitive deficits. She and her team have demonstrated that nasal application of mesenchymal stem cells repairs brain damage and can reverse existing chemobrain. On the prevention front, she has demonstrated that mitochondrial protectants prevent chemobrain and that pifithrin-µ and metformin can help prevent chemotherapy-induced neuropathy.
Charles S. Cleeland, Ph.D. is the clinical research director for the Symptom Research department. He is the founder and initial chair of the department. He established the Pain Research group at the University of Wisconsin in 1979 and soon became an internationally recognized expert on the assessment and treatment of cancer pain. Cleeland and the Pain Research Group relocated to MD Anderson Cancer Center in 1996, and in March 2002 the Pain Research Group became the Department of Symptom Research.
Cleeland has devoted much of his career to observational, longitudinal and clinical studies of pain and other symptoms related to cancer and its treatment. He has published extensively on the development of pain and other symptoms and related biological mechanisms, particularly the role of inflammatory cytokines in treatment-related pain and fatigue.
Annemieke Kavelaars, Ph.D. is the Director of the Neuroimmunology Laboratory within the Symptom Research department. With more than 20 years' experience as a researcher in the field of neuroimmunology, Kavelaars has developed a broad background in the field of brain, behavior, and immunity, working extensively with experimental animal models of pain in mice, including inflammatory and nerve damage models.
Kavelaars joined MD Anderson in 2012, when she and Drs. Cobi Heijnen and Robert Dantzer established the Neuroimmunology Laboratory as a new basic science lab within the Department of Symptom Research. The lab extends the department's ongoing descriptive research and intervention trials in patients with research based on animal models of pain, fatigue, neuropathy and cognitive impairment.
Neuroimmunology of Cancer-Related Symptoms Laboratory
Department of Symptom Research
1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Unit 384
Houston, Texas 77030
(713) 794-5297 voice
(713) 745-8137 fax
MD Anderson Cancer Center Main Building
1515 Holcombe Boulevard, Suite B6.4527