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International Team Awarded Grant to Evaluate Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cancer Care

International Team Awarded Grant to Evaluate Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cancer Care
M. D. Anderson News Release 03/08/04

Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center and the Cancer Hospital, Fudan University (CHFU) in Shanghai, China have received a $263,000 grant from the National Cancer Institute (NCI) to establish an international center investigating the benefits of some traditional Chinese medicine for cancer patients.

During the two-year pilot study, funded by the NCI’s Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine, the International Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine will investigate three aspects of traditional Chinese medicine: herbal and natural treatments that target the disease and related symptoms; acupuncture for dealing with some side effects of cancer treatment; and the bio-behavioral effects of qigong and other mind/body-based interventions.

This is the first NCI grant to support the development of an international partnership to study the use of traditional Chinese medicine for cancer treatment. The multi-disciplinary team from M. D. Anderson and CHFU includes researchers in integrative medicine, traditional Chinese medicine, radiation oncology, anesthesiology, experimental therapeutics, cancer biology, surgery, palliative care and rehabilitation medicine, epidemiology, medical oncology and behavioral science.

M. D. Anderson and CHFU entered into a sister institution agreement in September 2003. These agreements with internationally recognized cancer centers establish a formal framework for cooperation with M. D. Anderson and represent a step forward in the global fight against cancer. As a part of the agreement, the institutions will collaborate on a range of clinical, educational and cancer research efforts.

“We recognize that innovation and collaboration are key to success in the fight against cancer,” said M. D. Anderson President John Mendelsohn, M.D. “Traditional Chinese medicine has a remarkable history. By applying Western scientific methodology, we hope this pilot study will help open the doors to important discoveries that will result in better treatment and quality of life for cancer patients worldwide.”

In addition to collaborating on a study of traditional Chinese medicine, both institutions plan to work together in areas of translational and population research as well as the increasing educational exchange among faculty.

Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D“There is much that cancer experts in China and the United States can learn from each other,” said Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., chief of the section of integrative medicine at M. D. Anderson and principal investigator of the study. “We hope open communication and a free exchange of scientific ideas will allow Western practitioners to learn about concepts of traditional medicine and expose Chinese practitioners to our approach to clinical research.”

Interest in complementary and alternative therapies in the United States has increased dramatically in recent years. Mental exercises like relaxation and meditation, physical activities such as yoga and dance, or the use of herbal supplements and vitamins are more accepted in the mainstream today for maintaining good health. Before beginning any new regimen, cancer patients need to know how these therapies interact with or complement treatment prescribed by their doctors.

“Many patients begin some form of complementary therapy without the consent or knowledge of their doctors,” Cohen says, “but it’s important that a therapy complement, not impede, other treatments that their doctors prescribe. With more research and better information about these therapies, physicians and patients can evaluate these options thoroughly and know with more certainty which options are appropriate for their care.”

In traditional Chinese medicine, practitioners attempt to maintain health by restoring the balance of energy to the body and spirit - addressing symptoms instead of treating a particular disease or medical condition. It is a practice dating back more than 5,000 years, however many of these therapies have not been clinically tested with Western methods of clinical research. At the same time, some important chemotherapy agents used in conventional Western medicine have been derived from biological-based products used in traditional Chinese medicine. More work needs to be done to investigate and document these agents before researchers can understand the role they may play in fighting and treating cancer.

“We hope to plant a seed that will expand our collaboration on evidence-based research of complementary therapies to treat cancer and cancer-related symptoms,” Cohen said.

For more information on complementary therapies and integrative medicine, visit M. D. Anderson’s Complementary/Integrative Medicine Education Resources web site.

© 2015 The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center