For decades, chemotherapy has been helping people beat cancer. But not everyone who takes the cancer killing drugs escapes their side effects. A new study at West Virginia University will literally be music to the ears of patients who are experiencing the two most distressing side effects – nausea and vomiting.

The research underway at the Mary Babb Randolph Cancer Center will evaluate the effects of therapeutic harp music on patients with chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting. It is one of the first studies to test live music’s effect on reducing nausea.

“Several studies have shown that listening to therapeutic music improves pain control in cancer patients, but little is known about its effect on nausea control,” Miklos Auber, M.D., principal investigator, said. “Our study looks at the subjective part of patient care. It’s all about influencing the subjective part of the brain to produce better patient results while using standard chemotherapy.”

Patients who qualify for the study will be randomly assigned to listen to live harp music during every other chemo treatment. Howard Emerson, a certified music practitioner for WVU Hospitals and co-principal investigator, will play music for them for at least one-half hour while they receive chemo. He will also give them a CD of recorded harp music to play at home at least once and day, for at least three days following chemotherapy.

“In the eight years that I have been playing music for cancer patients, I have noticed that the harp has a calming effect on them, and they seem less anxious about their disease,” Emerson said. “Most of what I play is slow, soothing music that is 50 to 60 beats per minute. But I will play more upbeat tunes if the patient requests them.”

In addition to listening to harp music, patients will be asked to keep track of any anti-nausea medications they take at home and to complete a quality of life questionnaire rating their physical, social, emotional and functional well-being after each chemotherapy cycle.

“The results from this study will indicate the number of episodes of nausea with music therapy and compare that to the number of times patients report that they feel better,” Auber said. “If we can help control chemotherapy-induced nausea by having patients listen to live and recorded therapeutic harp music, we may also be able to lift their spirits and improve their quality of life.”

For more information on this clinical trial see


For More Information:
Amy Johns, HSC News Service, 304-293-7087