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The Making of Medicine

$3.4 Million to Better Manage Pain

Congratulations to the School of Nursing's Virginia LeBaron for receiving $3.4 million to expand her work to use smart sensors, such as smart watches, to help patients with cancer better manage their pain.

The new grant comes from the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Nursing Research. It will allow Professor LeBaron to scale up use of BESI-C (Behavioral and Environmental Sensing and Intervention for Cancer), a health home-monitoring system that combines environmental and wearable smart watch sensors for use by cancer patients and family caregivers.

Pilot grants from the UVA Center for Engineering in Medicine and the American Cancer Society have allowed Professor LeBaron and an interdisciplinary team of engineers and clinicians to design and deploy BESI-C into patients’ homes. The new grant will let her increase availability and capitalize on the resulting observational data about how patients and caregivers anticipate, experience and manage pain. She'll quantify pain's impact on patients' quality of life to, hopefully, head off pain episodes before they can begin.

“Short of a cure for cancer, responsibly and compassionately managing pain is our baseline goal as clinicians. But in many cases, the approach to pain relief can be a blunt, one-size-fits-all instrument," Professor LeBaron said. "My hope is to improve our understanding of cancer pain – why and under what conditions it happens, what its effect is on both patients and their family caregivers, and how it’s best relieved – and to thoughtfully identify and deploy personalized pharmacologic and non-drug solutions to treat it.”

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