A study using moxibustion to reduce side effects of chemotherapy

Please note - this trial is no longer recruiting patients. We hope to add results when they are available.

Cancer type:

Bowel (colorectal) cancer
Breast cancer
Cervical cancer
Colon cancer
Ovarian cancer
Rectal cancer
Vaginal cancer
Vulval cancer
Womb (uterine or endometrial) cancer





This study is looking at teaching people to use a form of heat (moxibustion) to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy.

More about this trial

Chemotherapy has side effects. Your chemotherapy can be reduced or delayed if the side effects are bad enough. 

Moxibustion is a part of traditional Chinese medicine. It uses heat to stimulate points on the body called acupuncture points.  

A dried herb called mugwort is rolled into a cigar shape known as a moxa stick. The glowing end of the lit stick is held above the body to gently warm the acupuncture point. This should create a pleasant sensation of warmth. 

Diagram showing moxa stick

We know from research that moxibustion might reduce the side effects of chemotherapy. 

In this study researchers will teach people how to use moxibustion. They want to find out how easy this will be and if it can be included in a typical chemotherapy schedule. 

Other aims include finding 

  • how well moxibustion works to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy particularly on the blood cells
  • how moxibustion affects quality of life Open a glossary item
  • how acceptable moxibustion is 

Who can enter

The following bullet points list the entry conditions for this study. Talk to your doctor or the study co-ordinator if you are unsure about any of these. They will be able to advise you. 

You may be able to join this study if you have one of the following

And all of the following apply you

  • Are to start chemotherapy or are still having your first cycle of treatment
  • Have satisfactory blood test results
  • Are between 18 and 75 years old

You cannot join this study if any of these apply

  • You are having GCSF with chemotherapy  
  • This is your 3rd or 4th course of chemotherapy treatment  
  • Your cancer has spread to the bones 
  • You have a haematological malignancy Open a glossary item
  • You have lymphoedema of the legs
  • You have problems with the way your kidneys work
  • You have any other medical condition that the study team think could affect you taking part

Trial design

This is a feasibility study. The team need 25 people who are going to have chemotherapy at Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, Northwood to join. 

You see a Health Improvement Practitioner twice before starting chemotherapy. 

The first time is ideally about 7 to 10 days before you start chemotherapy. Or before finishing your chemotherapy drugs as part of the first cycle of treatment. They will tell you about moxibustion and teach you how to do it. This includes how to find the acupuncture point. The point will be marked so you’ll know where it is.  

The acupuncture point used in this study is called Zusanli ST-36, or ST-36 for short. It is located on the lower leg, just below and to the side of the knee. 

Moxa for CIP diagram

The second meeting is about a week later. You will show the Health Improvement Practitioner how you have been doing moxibustion. This is so they know that you are doing it correctly.   

You might find it helpful to bring someone along to these meetings with you. 

You use moxibustion every day during chemotherapy and for 3 weeks afterwards. You apply it to the acupuncture point on both legs for 3 minutes each. The whole procedure takes less than 10 minutes to do. 

The team will supply the necessary materials to do moxibustion. They will give you written instructions on how to do it. And tell you how to access a video on YouTube showing how to do moxibustion or give this to you on a memory stick to take home. You will have a telephone number to contact a member of the team in case of difficulties. 

You have a diary to record your daily self treatment. 

They will ask you to fill out a couple of questionnaires

  • at the start of your moxa treatment 
  • at the 2nd chemotherapy treatment
  • at the 3rd chemotherapy treatment
  • at your last chemotherapy treatment 
  • 1 month after you finish treatment

The questionnaires will ask about side effects and how you’ve been feeling. This is called a quality of life study.

After you have finished treatment you will be invited to a group to talk about your experience of using moxibustion. 

Hospital visits

You see the Health Improvement Practitioner twice at the start of using moxibustion. Both take place at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre. 

The 1st meeting takes an hour. The Health Improvement Practitioner will 

  • Explain moxibustion
  • Show how it is done
  • Answer any questions
  • Teach you how to light, use and extinguish moxa safely
  • Teach you how to locate the acupuncture point on each leg
  • Mark the points with a pen
  • Talk about applying the moxa for 3 minutes on each point
  • Show you how to fill in in the Daily Moxa Diary
  • Provide you with a moxa pack for 1 week of treatment
  • Arrange the 2nd appointment for about one week later

The 2nd meeting takes about 45 minutes. The Health Improvement Practitioner will ask you to do moxibustion. 

You see the Health Improvement Practitioner before each chemotherapy session to see how you are.

Side effects

Although burns are the most common reported side effect, they don't happen very often. The team will show you how to use moxa safely to minimise the risk of burning. They will also tell you how to deal with a burn should you get one.

Recruitment start:

Recruitment end:

How to join a clinical trial

Please note: In order to join a trial you will need to discuss it with your doctor, unless otherwise specified.

Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Chief Investigator

Dr Beverley de Valois

Supported by

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust
NIHR Clinical Research Network: Cancer
Lynda Jackson Macmillan Centre
Mount Vernon Cancer Centre 
British Acupuncture Council

Questions about cancer? Contact our information nurses

Freephone 0808 800 4040

Last review date

CRUK internal database number:


Please note - unless we state otherwise in the summary, you need to talk to your doctor about joining a trial.

Cara took part in a clinical trial

A picture of Cara

"I am glad that taking part in a trial might help others on their own cancer journey.”

Last reviewed:

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