To Study Alternative Medicine For Cancer
Can tart cherries
alleviate cancer pain? Does prayer help heal African-American women
with breast cancer?
To answer such questions, Johns
Hopkins Medicine has been awarded a five-year, $7.8 million grant from
the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to establish a research center
to study complementary and alternative medicine in the treatment of
The Johns Hopkins Center for
Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) in Cancer -- funded by the
NIH National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine -- will
initially pursue four studies of alternative therapies for breast and
prostate cancers, will train and educate physicians and medical
students in alternative medicine and research techniques, and will
review and fund pilot studies of other alternative treatments.
"Our aim is to reconcile
scientific method with alternative medicine treatments --two areas
currently in opposition in the West," says Adrian S. Dobs, M.D.,
M.H.S., principal investigator of the new center and associate
professor of endocrinology. The Center will promote collaboration
between alternative medicine and mainstream scientific communities to
determine the most promising alternative treatments and the most
scientific way of studying them.
Among the research projects is an
evaluation of PC-SPES (a combination of eight Chinese herbs) for its
ability to reduce stress leading to oxidative DNA damage in cancer
cells and for its ability to improve the immune system in prostate
cancer patients. Scientists also will study soy and sour cherries for
their ability to reduce cancer pain, and investigate the health impact
of prayer among African-American women with breast cancer. The Center
also plans collaborations with Johns Hopkins Singapore.
The Center will focus first on
breast and prostate cancers, but Dobs believes that information gleaned
from studying these cancers may be generalized to other forms of
"Often patients ask their
physicians about an alternative medicine treatment that they heard of,
but receive little direction one way or the other because there is
little scientific evidence," adds Dobs, who also directs Hopkins'
Clinical Trials Unit and serves as vice chair for the Department of
Medicine. "Then the onus is on the patient to decide, and this can
be dangerous for patients."
Despite the lack of scientific proof
and safety data on alternative medicine treatments, Americans spent
more than $27 billion on alternative therapies in 1997, exceeding
out-of-pocket spending for all hospitalizations in the United States,
according to a survey published in the Journal of the American
Medical Association (JAMA).
"We have assembled a top-notch
team of cutting-edge Hopkins scientists and leaders in alternative
medicine, and we will proceed with an open mind and a healthy amount of
skepticism," Dobs says.
The initial trials should begin in
about six months. Those wishing to find out more about the studies or
volunteer should call 410-847-3550.
Hopkins was one of two awardees for
the grants. The other is the University of Pennsylvania. Steven
Piantadosi, M.D, Ph.D., is co-principal investigator for the CAM
Center. He is a professor of oncology at Hopkins and director of
biostatistics for the Johns Hopkins Oncology Center. - By Karen Infeld
The National Center for Complementary and
Alternative Medicine at NIH
[Contact: Karen Infeld]