|A special grant will help researchers explore art therapy for caregivers of pediatric patients.|
It seems like everyone has questions or opinions about complementary and alternative medicine, but hard scientific evidence backing it remains scarce.
Now City of Hope researchers are doing their part to put some of the complementary practices to the test.
Whether they’re learning about the effects of blueberries on breast cancer or about the benefits of hypnosis, four teams of City of Hope researchers are making a foray into practices not quite considered traditional medicine. And they’re backed by City of Hope’s Sheri & Les Biller Patient and Family Resource Center, which is supporting the scientists through 2008 Complementary & Alternative Medicine Research Grants.
Complementary and alternative medicine includes a variety of health-related systems, practices and products considered outside of today’s conventional medicine, according to the National Institutes of Health. Examples might include traditional Chinese medicine, music therapy, exercise, homeopathy and Ayurveda, an ancient system of health care originating in India. Dietary supplements, certain foods and mind-body therapies such as meditation also qualify.
Some refer to these alternatives as integrative medicine.
“We’ve been very interested in complementary treatments, but what is evident is that good studies are hard to come by,” said Lily Lai, M.D., a member of City of Hope’s Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) Task Force. “Whether it’s the rigorous science or methodology that’s missing from studies on CAM, or the ability to integrate CAM treatments with conventional medicine, these are things that make it very difficult to interpret whether these modalities would be useful in cancer treatment.”
Four groups received funding. Among their topics:
- Blueberry extract’s effects on cancer spread in triple-negative breast cancer (cancer cells that have no estrogen, progesterone or HER2/neu receptors),
- Identification of complementary and alternative agents to treat diabetes and colon cancer,
- Art therapy with caregivers who support children undergoing bone marrow transplants for cancer, and
- The use of hypnosis before surgery to reduce pain and anesthesia-related side effects after surgery
Awardees will present their findings at an integrative medicine symposium in spring 2009, Lai said.
“Our intent with these seed grants is to support work that will provide researchers with enough pilot data to pursue outside funding,” explained Annette Mercurio, M.P.H., C.H.E.S., program director for the Biller Patient and Family Resource Center and a member of the CAM Task Force’s grant committee.
The project topics fit well with City of Hope physicians’ and scientists’ interests in integrative medicine. In 2007, CAM Task Force members surveyed City of Hope health-care professionals and research scientists about their attitudes toward aspects of integrative medicine, and results were intriguing.
Exercise prompted the most interest, followed by psychologic support and dietary supplements, said Lai, who noted that psychologic support and dietary ingredients were well-represented among topics garnering grants. The task force plans to offer educational sessions on exercise, psychologic support, dietary supplements and other topics of interest in the future.
“We are enthusiastic about the broad interest in a variety of integrative medicine modalities at City of Hope, and look forward to seeing the research expand and grow,” said Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., a member of the CAM Task Force’s grant committee. Chen’s own laboratory and clinical research projects include studies examining the anticancer properties of mushrooms and grape seed extract.