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NIH Funds Two New CAM Cancer Therapy Research Centers

NIH Funds Two New CAM Cancer Therapy Research Centers

BETHESDA, Md—Two new research centers funded by the National Institutes of Health will focus on basic and clinical research of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) cancer therapies. The centers, at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Pennsylvania, will each receive nearly $8 million over 5 years.

The centers are being funded by the NIH’s National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) under what are called P-50 awards. The awards support a full range of research and development projects from basic work to clinical and interventional studies. NCCAM is funding a total of 15 such centers through P-50 grants.

Congress directed the NIH to establish a national CAM research center in light of alternative therapy’s growing popularity among Americans. Several recent national studies have found that a majority of cancer patients use some form of CAM, particularly herbs, vitamins, and medications.

“These centers will promote high-quality research and provide the resources necessary to facilitate rigorous scientific investigation to determine the safety and effectiveness of several popular CAM cancer therapies in use by the American public,” said NCCAM director Stephen E. Straus, MD.

The new Johns Hopkins Center for Cancer Complementary Medicine, headed by Adrian S. Dobs, MD, will initially pursue projects in four areas.

• The antioxidant effect of herbs in cancer cells.

• The pain-reducing power of soy and tart cherry in four animal models.

• The safety and efficacy of a popular combination of eight Chinese herbs, known as PC-SPES, in prostate cancer patients.

• The power of prayer in black women with breast cancer, specifically its re-lationship to breast cancer recurrence, and to immune system and endocrine function.

“Often patients ask their physicians about an alternative medicine treatment that they have heard of, but receive little direction one way or the other because there is little scientific evidence,” said Dr. Dobs, associate professor of endocrinology at Johns Hopkins. “Then the onus is on the patient to decide, and this can be dangerous for patients.”

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania Specialized Center of Research in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, headed by Stephen R. Thom, MD, PhD, will explore the use of oxygen at greater than atmospheric pressure in the treatment of cancer.

Four initial projects are aimed at determining the mechanisms of action, safety, and clinical efficacy of hyperbaric oxy-gen therapy for head and neck tumors.

The University of Pennsylvania studies include:

• An outcomes trial in patients who have undergone laryngectomy

• An examination of the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on the growth of blood vessels and tumors.

• A study of the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on the adhesion and growth of metastatic tumors in the lung.

• An evaluation of how elevated oxygen pressures affect cellular levels of nitric oxide.

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