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 5-year, $7.8 million grant from the National
Institutes of Health (NIH) National Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine to establish a research center to study complementary and alternative
medicine in the treatment of cancer.
The Johns Hopkins Center for Complementary and Alternative
Medicine (CAM) in Cancer 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.
East Meets West
"Our aim is to reconcile scientific method with alternative
medicine treatmentstwo areas currently in opposition in the West," said
Adrian S. Dobs, md, mhs, 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 will also study soy and sour
cherries for their ability to reduce cancer pain, and investigate the impact of
prayer on the health of African-American women with breast cancer. In addition,
the Center plans collaborations with Johns Hopkins Singapore.
Breast and prostate cancers will be the focus of intitial
studies at the Center, but Dr. Dobs believes that information gleaned from
studying these cancers may be generalized to other forms of cancer.
A Lucrative Alternative
"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," said Dr. 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.
"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," said Dr. Dobs.
The initial trials should begin in about 6 months. Those wishing
to find out more about the studies or volunteer should call 410-847-3550.