CAM and cancer care; Ayurvedic herbs and contamination

Health trends include a new book on CAM and cancer care, a discussion contamination issues in Ayurvedic herbs, AIDS and nutrition.

Princeton profiles a doctor integrating conventional and CAM approaches to cancer care:

Primary author of "The Key to Cancer" (2006, Hoaloha Books, 115 pages), Dr. Weeder is a compelling advocate for CAM therapy, i.e., therapies that fall under the rubric of Complementary and Alternative Medicine, a large and growing field that is slowly winning some acceptance, here and there, case by case, study by study, within the medical establishment. But it's very slow going, and especially so among oncologists (cancer specialists), who practice "a hard, thankless specialty," Dr. Weeder says, with respect.

Yet some people are starting to listen. In 2006, the Commission on Cancer of the American College of Surgeons permitted Dr. Weeder to distribute his book at their convention. He considers this a "very encouraging" development. In 2007, the Abramson Cancer Center at The University of Pennsylvania, which had invited him to attend professional meetings on oncological topics, purchased and distributed hundreds of copies. This year, the State of New Jersey's Comprehensive Cancer Control Plan has invited him to serve on its palliation committee. And he has been presenting some cancer education programs at Hackensack University Medical Center's Cancer Center and Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in Hamilton, in association with Dr. Peter Plumb.
In a nutshell, Dr. Weeder argues for a two-front, all-out war on malignancy. The first front is conventional "standard-of-care" treatment -- go after the cancer as aggressively as the case warrants, stop its growth, eliminate it. The second front is CAM, which he believes to offer the means for the restoration of health.

CAM is a range of options and approaches, some of which can claim limited research to back them up, while others remain open questions.

For instance, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine at the National Institutes of Health identifies five broad areas -- "Whole Medical Systems," such as homeopathy, naturopathic medicine, Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic (Indian) medicine; "Mind-Body Medicine," such as treatments involving meditation, prayer, mental healing, and therapies based on art, music and dance; "Biologically-Based Practices," such as treatments involving herbs, foods, and vitamins; "Manipulative and Body-Based Practices," such as treatments involving chiropractic or osteopathic manipulation, physical therapy and massage, and "Energy Medicine," which involves "biofield therapies intended to affect energy fields that purportedly surround and penetrate the human body."

The Weeder thesis is that cancer is not the cause of illness, but rather the result of a failure in "the complex mechanisms of immunity, energy and spirit" that normally protect people from out-of-control malignancy.

The Guardian reports on research done by my former colleague Robert Saper, MD, on issues regarding contamination of some Ayurvedic products:

Popular Indian herbal medicines sold over the internet may contain harmful levels of poisonous toxic metals, The Guardian reports. Laboratory tests on Ayurvedic remedies found that up to one in five of them contained dangerous amounts of lead, arsenic and mercury, which "can lead to acute poisoning", the newspaper says.

There has been a surge in the popularity of alternative remedies such as Ayurvedic medicines, which are used to treat a variety of ailments. This study highlights the fact that many alternative therapies do not have to undergo the stringent health and safety research and monitoring that conventional medicines do. This study will lead to further testing and research into the safety of Ayurvedic medicines and other alternative therapies. People taking Ayurvedic or other alternative therapies to self-treat medical conditions should contact their doctor if they have any concerns, particularly if they are taking prescription medications at the same time.

Where did the story come from?
Dr Robert Saper from Boston Medical Center, US, and colleagues, carried out this research. The lead researcher had financial support through a Career Development Award from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine; another researcher had previously been a research associate for the Ayurvedic medicine manufacturer, Arya Vaidya Pharmacy. The study was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal: Journal of the American Medical Association.

A blogger reports on discussion of CAM therapies such as nutrition (i.e., 'food insecurity') at the Mexico City International AIDS Conference Report.