This center is focused on two aspects of pain research. The first is the interface between the underlying biology of pain and clinical diagnosis and treatment. For example, our team is studying how proteins in human spinal fluid are selectively expressed when patients experience low back and leg pain in a condition called lumbar spinal stenosis. This proteomic study is designed to identify a unique protein biomarker of pain. An understanding of the molecular mechanism of this chronic low back pain syndrome will provide the basis for targeted therapies. Lack of understanding of these molecular underpinnings is a major roadblock to the development of novel pain relievers (analgesics). Currently, there is no medical therapy with demonstrated analgesic efficacy for this common pain symptom pattern associated with standing and walking known as neurogenic intermittent claudication.
The second area of investigation aims to close the gap between what research discoveries have already taught us about pain management and the care that patients currently receive. The research focuses on decision support tools that can help clinicians predict which patients will respond to pain treatments. Treadmill testing applies validated measures of pain and function and integrates this patient specific information at the critical moment when treatment is first planned and following intervention to evaluate the results. The center’s collaboration with the University of Rochester Department of Neurosurgery and the Neuromedicine Pain Management Center seeks to improve the way treatments are matched to symptoms. Until now, outcomes research has emphasized endpoints such as mortality or complications of therapy like infection. The treadmill testing platform at the core our LUSTOR (Lumbar Stenosis Outcomes Research) program evaluates the twin goals of reducing pain and improving function that are priorities for patients.