Virginia Commonwealth University

VCU Massey Cancer Center

Palliative care research

VCU Massey Cancer Center is internationally renowned for its palliative care research. Palliative care researchers seek better ways to assess and treat the pain and symptoms of severe or chronic illness, as well as to address the psychosocial and spiritual issues associated with life-limiting disease.

Massey is also a leader in the exploration and development of service delivery models and protocols for teaching other clinicians how to create palliative care programs. Massey works with national and international organizations to implement the practice guidelines it has developed. Nowhere is this more evident than in Massey’s role as a Palliative Care Leadership Center, one of eight nationwide charged with providing on-site training for clinicians and administrators. Massey has trained more than 140 hospitals on how to start or grow their own palliative care programs.

Symptom management research

Symptom management studies evaluate therapies to prevent or ameliorate the pain and symptoms associated with cancer and its treatment. Representative examples include:

  • Studying interventions to reduce cancer-related fatigue and cachexia, also known as wasting syndrome
  • Investigating better ways to manage nausea and vomiting through the delivery of medicine via a topical gel
  • Testing the use of electrical stimulation to develop a non-invasive, non-narcotic method for rapid treatment of cancer pain 

Health services research

VCU Massey is well known for its health services research in the field of palliative care. Areas of focus include:

  • Making the business case that palliative care is a financially sustainable means of improving quality of life through pain and symptom control
  • Improving health literacy, particularly the study of cultural differences in the understanding and use of palliative care and the ways in which patients make decisions about cancer treatment
  • Building better patient-family-health care provider communication models
  • Developing measurement models for cancer care and palliative care, and international comparisons of specialist palliative care