Research into preventing pain after breast cancer surgery receives grant

A Western Australian based clinical trial aimed at improving the quality of life for women with breast cancer will benefit from a new $4.3 million grant from the Australian Government – the largest grant awarded as part of the Medical Research Future Fund’s $21.8 million investment.

17 Mar 2022

Anaesthesia and Pain team

The grant to the LOLIPOP (Long-term Outcomes of Lidocaine Infusions for persistent Postoperative Pain) trial is the single biggest amount of funding awarded in the latest grant awards.

Led by St John of God Subiaco Hospital Anaesthetist and Clinical Research Professor Tomás Corcoran, the trial will investigate whether chronic pain can be prevented by giving a local anaesthetic, lidocaine, intravenously during and up to 24 hours after breast cancer surgery.

It is estimated that nearly 50 per cent of breast cancer patients experience some chronic pain after surgery, and there is currently no known preventative treatment available.                              

The five year trial will also use a new approach in examining a person’s genes to determine whether their genetic makeup alters their response to lidocaine.

The trial is being coordinated through the Australian and New Zealand College of The Anaesthetists (ANZCA) Clinical Trials Network, based at Monash University in Melbourne.

Preventing the occurrence of chronic pain after surgery is considered the ‘holy grail’ because treating such pain, once established, can be very difficult.

“For many women, the findings of this research could potentially be life changing,” Prof Corcoran said.

“Women affected by breast cancer are often in the prime of their life and the impact of chronic, sustained pain can be significant. It can severely affect quality of living, personal relationships, ability to work, and mental health.”

“By exploring the prevention of post-surgery pain, our hope is that we can improve the outcomes for these patients, and ensure that they can comfortably return to their usual life as soon as possible following breast cancer surgery.”

“We are very fortunate to have secured the funding and we are incredibly grateful to the Australian Government for its support of innovative and practical trials examining important questions that impact large numbers of surgical patients.”

“This additional funding will help us to build upon our existing knowledge and research conducted so far. It will also allow the study to be expanded nationwide and internationally, and enable us to achieve our target of recruiting 4,300 trial participants.”

St John of God Subiaco Hospital Chief Executive Officer Professor Shirley Bowen said the hospital’s involvement in the trial continued its long tradition of providing the WA community access to the latest innovations in cancer care.

“It is pleasing that WA women can take part in this trial at St John of God Subiaco Hospital and receive ground-breaking care that could redefine how pain is managed for women with breast cancer across Australia and the world,” she said.

“As one of the State’s leading providers of cancer care, we have a strong focus on research and supporting clinical trials to provide our patients the best clinical care and outcomes possible.”

St John of God Subiaco Hospital will be the only private hospital in Western Australia to invite patients to participate in the trial, which is due to commence mid-2022.

Commenting on the grant awards, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt MP added that health and medical research is the single best way to advance health care.

“Our Government is profoundly committed to backing our best and brightest health and medical researchers in finding new treatments for patients both in Australia and internationally.”