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Study in Jane's name could help thousands of cancer patients lead fuller lives

by Press Release
Friday 20th February 2015

Charity feature: The Jane Tomlinson Appeal is to fund pioneering research into a new treatment which could help improve the lives of thousands of cancer patients

Study in Jane's name could help thousands of cancer patients lead fuller lives

Photos © Simon Dewhurst

Funds provided by the Appeal, part of the legacy of the late courageous fundraiser Jane Tomlinson will enable scientists at Leeds Beckett University to examine whether a sports medicine technique could give patients undergoing cancer treatments a life-changing boost.

In her final few months, amateur athlete Jane was treated by physiotherapist Alison Rose with ‘Kinesiology tape’ – the sort of strapping used by Olympic athletes.

For Jane, the application of the tape in a specific way helped to lift her ribcage, giving her organs – which had swollen during her cancer treatments – more space to move. It reduced Jane’s pain levels and relieved pressure on her stomach, restoring her ability to eat and drink. Her family say the treatment improved her quality of life immeasurably.

Now, scientists at Leeds Beckett – funded by the Jane Tomlinson Appeal and with the support of Alison, a renowned sports physiotherapist – will examine whether this same treatment could help other cancer patients. The research project was one of Jane’s final wishes before she lost her battle with cancer in 2007.

Mike Tomlinson, husband of the late Jane Tomlinson said: “When Jane died she left me with only two instructions, one was how to operate the washing machine and the second was when the Appeal had raised sufficient money to instigate research for the use of Kinesiology tape on cancer patients.

“In the final few months, the major positive impact on her quality life came not from drugs but from taping. The benefit was immediate and without any side effect.

“I am pleased that we are now in a position to be able to fund this project and I know that if Jane was still with us, she would feel very proud and humbled that through the efforts of so many people, her wish on the start line of the first London-Marathon to make life better for those suffering from this awful disease-can in a small way be done.”

Alison’s sports clients have included the likes of Jessica Ennis-Hill and Dame Kelly Holmes. She began treating Jane in 2004, preparing her for her amazing physical endeavours, including her Ride Across America. Alison, a director of the Leeds-based Coach House Sports Physiotherapy Clinic, said: “Jane was an incredibly strong woman and her mental strength was simply phenomenal. Jane didn’t take ‘no’ from anyone, not even her own body.

“But when Jane came back from the American bike ride in 2006, it had clearly taken its toll and she was markedly weaker. As with all cancer patients keeping your strength up is key and you need to ensure you are eating well and taking on the nutrients you need. Jane was reporting that she was struggling to eat, feeling breathless, as well as struggling with her digestive system.

“Following a chance conversation with a colleague I was introduced to possible benefits of Kinesiology taping and suggested to Jane we try it. The day we put it on, I could see that she wasn’t well. She was feeling sick; she hadn’t been able to eat much.

“We applied the tape in conjunction with visceral work, with no expectations but then Jane bounced back into the clinic three or four days later looking a completely different person, one full of energy. She had had a fantastic weekend, it had been Rebecca’s birthday and they had been out celebrating. She had eaten and drank and had a lovely time.

“She felt the tape had given her more space around her abdomen so she could breath and eat better and just feel more ‘normal’. It enabled her to enjoy family time and not feel restrained by her illness. I was totally taken aback – I didn’t expect her to come in as she did. Jane exuded energy and it took me by surprise just how well she looked. In all, we treated Jane for about six months, and during that time it made a huge difference. She was able to go out and enjoy herself and spend time with her family.

“She was able to attend one of Steven’s school sports days – and even take part in one of the races. It was the last one she went to, which for the family, especially Steven, was a very important memory. When you don’t know how long you have left, when you can enjoy those moments, it’s very important.”

Professor Mark Johnson, Professor of Pain and Analgesia at Leeds Beckett University said: I am really excited about this project because there has been so little research on the use of Kinesiology tape for people with cancer and there is a pressing need to find more effective approaches to manage cancer-related symptoms.

“I will be working with a multidisciplinary team of scientists, clinicians and patient advocates. This is a major strength of the project because the research findings will encompass different viewpoints making our recommendations much more applicable to the needs of patients and their carers.

“This project provides our team at Leeds Beckett University with an exciting opportunity to work with Alison Rose and the Jane Tomlinson Appeal to further knowledge about treatments that will improve the quality of life of individuals with cancer.

“I was overjoyed when the Jane Tomlinson Appeal and Alison Rose approached our team with an idea to conduct research into the use of Kinesiology taping for the management of cancer-related symptoms. I have spent most of my research career investigating the use of non-drug therapies to relieve pain so investigating Kinesiology taping is right up my street! Kinesiology taping is a relatively new technique so it has not been used much in cancer settings.

As a consequence there has been very little research on the type of patients that may benefit from using it.

“As a pain scientist I am particularly interested in trying to find out whether Kinesiology taping affects pain and discomfort and we will be conducting experiments in our laboratory using healthy volunteers.”

If the research shows that the treatment is beneficial, the Appeal would aim to establish training programmes for other physiotherapists working with cancer patients. The Appeal would also look to fund the treatment for individual cancer patients on low incomes.

The technique in more detail

Kinesiology taping (KT) is a technique that has become popular in recent years, especially in the context of prevention and treatment of musculoskeletal conditions. The technique uses an elastic, waterproof, porous, adhesive therapeutic tape, with a thickness of ~0.5 mm and varying shapes, sizes and colours. KT is applied to various sites of the skin to apply mild tension to underlying structures. It is claimed that KT improves proprioception, muscle strength and tone, circulation of blood and lymph, and decreases pain.

Recently, it was estimated that 50% of people in the UK will develop cancer at some point in their lives. Therefore, there is an ever increasing need to find effective approaches to manage symptoms resulting from the disease and its treatment.

Some practitioners have started to use KT to manage cancer-related symptoms. However, there has been very little research on the type of symptoms that respond best to KT and what is the most effective clinical technique in this setting.

Managing cancer-related symptoms can be a real challenge and practitioners often need to use drugs in combination with physiotherapy and complimentary therapies to improve the patient’s quality of life.

The partnership with Alison Rose and Leeds Beckett University will investigate whether KT can be a useful therapeutic aid in the management of cancer-related symptoms such as pain, fatigue, swelling, and abdominal and respiratory discomfort.

The project will have a number of phases including reviewing published research to identify what type of symptoms KT might be useful for; a survey to assess the extent of current use of KT in cancer settings; experiments to gain insights into the physiological effects of KT on healthy human volunteers; and clinical studies to gather determine whether individuals with cancer find KT acceptable and beneficial.

The findings of our research studies will be used to inform practitioners about the use of KT for people with cancer and provide investigators with information about the direction for future research.


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