Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Eduardo Bruera

Committee Member

Jon Trent

Committee Member

Kristen Price

Committee Member

Holly Holmes

Committee Member

David McConkey


Background: Dyspnea is a common and distressing symptom among patients with advanced cancer. The role of bilevel positive airway pressure (BIPAP) and Vapotherm in the relief of dyspnea have not been well defined. We aimed to determine and to compare the efficacy of BIPAP and VapoTherm for cancer related dyspnea.

Methods: In this randomized, open-label, crossover study, we randomly assigned advanced cancer patients with persistent dyspnea >=3/10 to either Vapotherm for 2 hours followed by BiPAP for 2 hours, or BiPAP followed by Vaptherm. A variable washout period was instituted between interventions. The primary end point was change in numeric rating scale before and after each intervention. We planned to enroll 50 patients in total.

Results: Among the 803 patients screened over the last 8 months, 62 (26%) were eligible, and 16 (2%) were enrolled so far. Five patients completed the entire study successfully, 4 discontinued the study prematurely due to prolonged relief of dyspnea, and 7 dropped out for various reasons, including inability to tolerate BiPAP (N=3), anxiety (N=2), fatigue (N=1) and pain requiring opioids (N=1). The median baseline numeric rating score for dyspnea was 7/10 (interquartile range (IQR) 5-8), and the median baseline Borg score was 4/10 (3-7). Interim analysis revealed that BiPAP was associated with a median change in numeric rating score of -3 (N=10, IQR -6.3 to -1, p=0.007) and modified Borg score of -1 (N=10, IQR -3 to 0.3, p=0.058), while Vapotherm was associated with a median change in numeric rating score of -2 (N=9, IQR -3 to -1, p=0.011) and modified Borg score of -2.5 (N=8, IQR -5.5 to -0.1, p=0.051). Among the 5 individuals who completed the entire study, 2 preferred Vapotherm, 2 favored BiPAP, and 1 liked both. The respiratory rate decreased and the oxygen saturation improved with both interventions. No significant toxicities were observed.

Conclusions: We were successfully able to enroll patients onto this clinic trial. Our preliminary results suggest that BiPAP and Vapotherm are highly efficacious in providing relief for patients with persistent refractory dyspnea. A direct comparison of the two interventions will be done upon study completion. Further research is necessary to confirm our findings.


cancer, dyspnea, palliative care, symptom control, oxygen, BIPAP, vapotherm, randomized, clinical trial

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