Hope Hospice has been selected to participate in a study to determine if moving touch therapy, also known as massage therapy, reduces the burden of symptoms of patients in advanced stages of cancer. The National Institutes of Health has awarded a $1.2 million grant to the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center to conduct the study.

The researchers anticipate that the three-year study, the largest of its kind ever done, will demonstrate that massage therapy decreases pain, improves quality of life and reduces physical and emotional symptom distress among patients with advanced cancer. Nationwide, 440 patients will be enrolled in the clinical trial, including patients at Hope and eleven other hospices.

“Hope Hospice has offered massage therapy to our patients for years, and the feedback has been positive, even during advanced stages of illness,” said Samira K. Beckwith, Hope Hospice President and CEO. “We expect the data from this study to confirm that those who receive massage therapy will experience a better quality of life and enhanced comfort during end of life care.”

Beckwith said that in addition to satisfying the need for nurturing touch, the benefits of massage therapy include increased flow of oxygen to the tissue and the release of endorphin, the body’s natural painkiller.

Proponents believe that with massage therapy, advanced cancer patients do not suffer from the side effects their medications can cause. The medications are used to treat pain, fatigue and decreased appetite.

If the nationwide study confirms that patients do experience a better quality of life with massage therapy, it could become a standard component of patient care.