WASHINGTON--The National Cancer Institute is getting more comfortable
with the idea of seriously evaluating complementary and alternative
medicine (CAM) approaches to treating cancer.
NCI director Richard D. Klausner, MD, told a congressional committee
that the Institute plans to (1) undertake a series of studies to evaluate
CAM cancer treatments; (2)
formally designate an NCI coordinator of CAM therapies; (3)
strengthen its relationship with the NIHs Office of Alternative
Medicine (OAM), including the formation of a joint cancer advisory
panel (CAP-CAM); and (4) provide the public with an unprecedented
flow of accurate information on complementary and alternative medicine.
"Let me emphasize at the start that the basic tenet of the NIH
is to employ rigorous methodologies to reach conclusions based on
evidence and not on belief," he said at a hearing of the House
Government and Reform Oversight Committee. "Standards of
evidence cannot be compromised, and I am pleased that, on this
crucial point, I and many colleagues in the complementary and
alternative medicine community agree."
He gave two reasons for NCIs expanding relationship with CAM
advocates: The need to be open to new ideas and new approaches and
the fact that "many people take complementary and alternative
medicines, and they reasonably ask who is providing evidence as to
whether they help, do nothing, or are harmful."
Dr. Klausner noted that NCI supports many "high-quality"
CAM-related research efforts in cancer. These include studies of diet
interventions in cancer treatment and the potential therapeutic value
of vitamins and minerals in cancer therapy and prevention; trials of
stress and pain management to enhance patients quality of life;
and investigations of the effect of natural inhibitors of
carcinogenesis. Such research will be expanded to even more
controversial areas, he said.
NCI to Appoint CAM Coordinator
The appointment of a coordinator for CAM therapies, a new position at
NCI, is in its final stages, the director said. The new coordinator
will be a member of the cancer research community and will develop
relations with the CAM community and serve as a liaison between the
two groups "to encourage collaboration and joint research initiatives."
NCI and OAM are currently developing a list of potential members for
CAP-CAM, the advisory panel on complementary and alternative medicine
in cancer. The 13-member panel will consist of a broad range of
experts from conventional and CAM cancer research.
"This group will review and evaluate summaries of evidence for
CAM cancer claims submitted by practitioners, make recommendations to
OAM and NCI on whether and how these evaluations should be followed
up, and be available to observe and provide advice about those
studies supported by OAM and NCI, and about communication of the
results of those studies," Dr. Klausner said.
NCI is also revamping the way it presents information on CAM to the
public. "Several months ago, as a result of our own concerns and
the constructive input from the CAM community, we removed from the
NCI website all previous CAM information and are creating new
information that treats CAM dispassionately and fairly," Dr.