More than 75% of patients undergoing chemotherapy experience nausea, which can impact negatively on their quality of life. Acupressure wrist bands can reduce the symptoms of travel sickness by applying force to the Nei Kuan pressure point on each wrist.

The national study of more than 700 patients, at nine NHS cancer centres, will now measure the cost and clinical effectiveness of acupressure wrist bands in reducing and controlling chemotherapy-related nausea. Led by Professor Mari Lloyd-Williams, from the University's Academic Palliative and Supportive Care Studies Group, the team will analyse a wide range of patients, diagnosed with different types of cancer and undergoing chemotherapy, in order to discover which patient groups would most benefit from the intervention.

Professor Lloyd-Williams said: "Developments in anti-emetic drugs - used to combat nausea and vomiting - have decreased the symptoms suffered by chemotherapy patients but nausea remains a debilitating and poorly controlled symptom.

"Patients rank nausea and vomiting amongst the most distressing side effects of chemotherapy. In some cases, poorly controlled symptoms can lead to patients choosing to stop potentially curative treatment. These symptoms can contribute towards a loss of social life, prevent people from working, and lead to anxiety and depression.

"If the trials are successful, we should be able to control this debilitating symptom with a drug-free therapy. The wrist bands could potentially help patients to maintain a good quality of life throughout their treatment."

The trial will be the first of its kind to run in the NHS, and is funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment programme. The research will be carried out in collaboration with the University of Manchester, Salford University and the University of Plymouth.

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"The [high-frequency stimulation] effects were not subtle," the researchers wrote in the Science Express paper. "In nearly every case these severely Parkinsonian animals were restored to behavior indistinguishable from normal, and in every case the therapeutic effect immediately and fully reversed??Župon discontinuation of the light pulse."

Low-frequency stimulation, meanwhile, caused the Parkinson's symptoms to become worse.

Future progress

Deisseroth said the work raises even more interesting questions than it answers, such as what types of cells the axons target.

In addition, he asked, "In what way can we team up with other clinicians to help guide therapies capitalizing on this insight?"

Deisseroth said the most important outcome of the work, primarily carried out by graduate students Viviana Gradinaru and Murtaza Mogri, who are the first authors of the paper, is the new information about the role of the axons. He cautioned that, while the optogenetic technique had a therapeutic effect on the rodents and has worked well in every species tried so far, it still might not be the best therapy for people.

"There may be better or simpler ways to get that therapeutic value now that we have this key insight," he said.

This study is the first showing that optogenetics can be applied to brain disease. Deisseroth said another of this group's hopes is to extend the understanding of deep-brain stimulation to how it affects different diseases, such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder.

"Our goal is to better understand this disease and its treatment, and to help refine and generalize therapies by elucidating basic mechanisms," he said.

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