Skip Navigation

 

A Growing Mission to Ease Neurosurgical Pain

A Growing Mission to Ease Neurosurgical Pain

In 2011, a $25 million gift from an anonymous donor launched the Johns Hopkins Neurosurgery Pain Research Institute—To Control, Prevent, and Eliminate Pain. Over the past four years, this generous donation provided the impetus to launch a revolutionary effort centered around easing neurosurgery patients’ pain before, during, and after operative care now and in the future. Subsequent funding from this same donor has bolstered this effort, providing support for a pain resource team that rounds on neurosurgery patients to tackle immediate pain issues; scientists doing basic pain research to better understand how pain arises and develop innovative ways to treat it; and a group working on developing clinical trials for novel pain therapies to help future patients.
 
Now, a recent $40 million gift from the same anonymous donor is providing an even stronger boost for these efforts.
 
“We’ve been entrusted with an exceptional body of resources,”
says institute co-director Michael Caterina, a sensory neurobiologist whose research focuses on the molecular basis of pain. “There’s a tremendous sense of responsibility to make a meaningful and transformational impact on patients’ lives.”
 
Part of the new gift is slated toward maximizing the talent working on the problem of neurosurgical pain at Johns Hopkins. Some of the funds will go to forging ambitious collaborations across the university to pool experts in various pain-related fields. The institute will also use this gift to hire experts in pain research areas not well-represented at Johns Hopkins to bring more knowledge and skills to bear on this problem as well as encourage the careers of talented young researchers whose work shows promise in the pain field.
 
Ongoing research at the institute aims to better manage perioperative pain and develop better ways to identify the origin of pain, an often challenging prospect that limits how effectively physicians can treat individual patients. Researchers are also working on novel ways to control pain, including electrical or magnetic stimulation to interrupt pain signals in the central nervous system, and to develop a better understanding of the physical and molecular changes that lead to the abnormal and long-term sensations of chronic pain.
 
Much of the research that will be funded by this recent gift is what scientists refer to as “risky,” says Department of Neurosurgery Director Henry Brem—it’s in scientific areas that haven’t been well studied but could offer tremendous boosts to the field once more is known. Brem’s own research on tumorrelated pain falls into this category, he says. Being able to work with private donations instead of funds from government agencies, which typically commit researchers to study the same topic for five years or longer, will allow him and other researchers to adapt the direction of their work more readily as new discoveries are made.
 
“The institute is small enough and nimble enough that funding can be quickly and efficiently applied to targeted research programs that are promising in terms of potential transformative impact on pain,” says co-director and neurosurgeon Allan Belzberg. “The enormous generosity of the donor will have a transformative impact on how we understand and manage and ultimately prevent painful suffering in our patients.”
back to top button