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Back To Vidyya NIH To Fund Research For Alternative Therapies For Cancer

Centers To Be Established To Conduct Basic And Clinical Research On Complementary And Alternative Medicine (CAM) Therapies

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), a component of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced plans to establish two specialized centers to conduct basic and clinical research on complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) therapies for cancer.

Today's announcement of research awards totaling some $8 million each, over a five-year period to Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland and the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, will bring the total of NCCAM-supported Centers studying the mechanisms underlying and the health effects of CAM therapies to fifteen.

NCCAM supports specialized research centers through the P-50 mechanism, a type of research grant that supports a full range of research and development projects--from basic to clinical and intervention studies. NCCAM's other specialized research centers cover CAM approaches for other areas of major public health need including drug addictions, aging and women's health, arthritis, craniofacial disorders, two cardiovascular disease centers (one with an emphasis on minority aging), neurological disorders, pediatrics, and chiropractic research, while four additional centers focus on studies of botanicals. These centers constitute a major investment of NCCAM's resources and serve as the focal point for initiating and maintaining state-of-the art multidisciplinary CAM research, developing core research resources, training new CAM investigators, and expanding the research base through collaborative research and outreach to scientists and clinicians.

Recent national surveys reveal that the majority of patients who undergo treatment for cancer use some form of complementary or alternative medicine, such as herbs, vitamins, or meditation. "These approaches have not yet been proven effective. Moreover, some herbs may cause harmful interactions with other drugs used as standard treatment by cancer patients," said Stephen E. Straus, M.D., NCCAM Director. "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," Dr. Straus concluded.

The Johns Hopkins Center for Cancer Complementary Medicine headed by Adrian S. Dobs, M.D. plans four research projects. Project 1 will examine anti-oxidant effects of herbs in cancer cells. Project 2 will use four established animal models that reflect different aspects of pain in cancer patients. The animals will be fed soy and tart cherry, which are felt to possess antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Project 3 will investigate the safety and efficacy of PC-SPES, a popular mixture of Chinese herbal medications, in men with prostate cancer. Project 4 will examine the effects of prayer on disease recurrence, immune and neuroendocrine function in African American women with breast cancer. The latter two studies address important health problems among minority populations.

Stephen R. Thom, M.D., Ph.D., heads the University of Pennsylvania Specialized Center of Research in Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy, an emerging specialty of medicine that uses oxygen at greater than-atmospheric pressures to treat a variety of disorders. This Center proposes four projects designed to examine mechanisms of action, safety and clinical efficacy of hyperbaric oxygen therapy for the treatment of head and neck tumors. Project 1 will evaluate treatment outcomes for patients who have undergone laryngectomy. Project 2 will examine the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on growth of blood vessels and tumors. Project 3 will characterize the effects of hyperbaric oxygen on cell adhesion and growth of metastatic tumor cells in the lung. Project 4 will test the effects of elevated oxygen pressures on cellular levels of nitric oxide.

"These new cancer research centers exhibit strong and cohesive leadership, institutional support and an integrated and ambitious approach toward the critical evaluation of unconventional cancer treatments," said Richard L. Nahin, Ph.D., M.P.H., Director of NCCAM's Extramural Grants and Review Division--the area with oversight responsibility for these two new Centers and NCCAM's entire extramural research portfolio. He concluded, "I am confident that each will advance our scientific knowledge and understanding of the potential benefits, risks, and application of many complementary therapies for cancer."

The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) is dedicated to exploring complementary and alternative medical (CAM) practices in the context of rigorous science; training CAM researchers and disseminating authoritative information. For additional information about NCCAM, please visit their website at

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Editor: Susan K. Boyer, RN
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