Sydney West Translational Cancer Research Centre
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Harnessing placebo mechanisms to improve clinical outcomes



Manly Beach, Sydney

The symposium is designed for doctors, psychologists, physiotherapists, nurses and other health professionals with an interest in understanding and applying knowledge of placebo mechanisms, and how these can be used to improve clinical outcomes for patients.

Placebo effects are a component of each and every health care interaction (even without administration of a placebo). The outcome of any given treatment is the effects from the index treatment itself and the psychosocial (therapeutic) context in which it is given (placebo mechanisms). Equally importantly, negative elements on the therapeutic context have the ability to turn on discrete “nocebo” mechanisms which worsen outcomes. Understanding the mechanisms of these effects and the ability to harness and modulate them in both clinical trials and clinical practice may lead to improved clinical outcomes and quality use of current and future medicines.

Clinical implications are wide-reaching - particularly understanding how to make our current therapies more effective by enhancing the context and manner in which we give them. Understanding the 'negative' or nocebo component of treatments (that is, even very good treatments delivered in a suboptimal manner) will only better help us enhance our treatment outcomes. Taken together, this is an important way of better understanding the quality use of medicine, surgery and other health care interventions.

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