Chinese medicine modalities, including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine (CHM), have been used as palliative interventions among cancer patients. More research should be conducted to confirm their effectiveness.

The objective of this study was to prioritize Chinese medicine clinical research questions for cancer palliative care.

Twelve international experts, including physicians, Chinese medicine practitioners, nurses, and clinical research methodologists (n = 3 from each category), from Asia, North America, Australia, and Europe participated in a two-round Delphi survey for prioritizing 29 research questions identified from existing systematic reviews. The experts were asked to 1) rate clinical importance of answering the questions on a nine-point Likert scale; 2) provide qualitative comments on their ratings; and 3) suggest outcome measurement approaches.

Eight research priorities reached positive consensus after the two-round Delphi survey. Six of the priorities focused on acupuncture and related therapies, of which median ratings on importance ranged from 7.0 to 8.0 (interquartile range: 1.00 to 2.50), and the percentage agreement ranged from 75.0% to 91.7%. The remaining two priorities related to CHM, with median ratings ranged from 7.0 to 8.0 (interquartile range: 1.00 to 1.50) and percentage agreement ranged from 75.0% to 83.3%. Neither positive nor negative consensus was established among the remaining 21 questions.

The findings will inform rational allocation of scarce research funding for evaluating the effectiveness of Chinese medicine for cancer palliative care, especially on acupuncture and related therapies. Further research on herb safety and herb-drug interaction should be performed before conducting international trials on CHM.

Journal of pain and symptom management 58.6 (2019): 1002-1014.