NIH Announces Launch of Studies to Understand Acute to Chronic Pain Transition

Tuesday, August 28, 2018


The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has launched a new program to study how acute pain transitions into chronic pain and to identify biologic characteristics underlying this transition and making some individuals more susceptible than others. Titled the Acute to Chronic Pain Signatures (A2CPS) program and managed by a cross departmental working group of the NIH Office of the Director, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), this program is part of the NIH-wide initiative Helping to End Addiction Long-term (HEAL). The 40.4 million dollar 4-year budget for A2CPS comes from the NIH Common Fund and is an additional investment rather than included in the HEAL program budget. 

Data from patients with acute pain associated with a surgical procedure and from patients with acute pain from musculoskeletal trauma will be collected. Neuroimaging, high-throughput biomedical measurements, sensory testing, and psychosocial assessments will be collected periodically after the acute pain event to form a comprehensive data set. It is hoped that analysis of this data set will generate correlations to help predict which patients who experience an acute pain event will go on to develop chronic pain. The data gathered from A2CPS will also be available to the research community to explore additional signatures predictive of transition or resilience to chronic pain.

Funding Opportunity Announcements are available for researchers to apply to participate in the A2CPS program. The NIH is seeking applications for multisite clinical centers for the surgical and musculoskeletal pain studies, a clinical coordination center, genomics data generation centers, and a data integration and resource center. Applications are due October 24, 2018. After sites and researchers are selected, a planning year will commence; recruitment for approximately 1,800 participants per study could begin as soon as 2019.

“Our lack of understanding of how acute pain becomes chronic pain has limited our ability to target effective preventive and treatment strategies to patients,” said NIH Director Francis S. Collins, MD PhD. “The ability to identify those at risk will increase our understanding of pain, accelerate therapy development, and ultimately may guide chronic pain prevention strategies tailored for those at risk for chronic pain.”

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