Cells Used to Stop Severe Cancer
New Approach Brings Success to an Old Idea
By David Brown
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, September 20, 2002; Page A01
A research team at the National Cancer Institute has successfully
treated several cases of advanced and usually fatal cancer with
immune system cells taken from the patients, grown in large numbers
and given back to them.
The treatment is one of many strategies scientists are using to
try to harness the human immune system's capacity to produce rare
cells capable of hunting down and attacking tumors
To read more about this interesting article and highly promising
research, go to :
More Than 70 Percent of Adults With Cancer Use
Nearly All Report Improved Sense of Well-Being
SEATTLE, Sept. 4 (AScribe Newswire) -- More than 70 percent of
adult cancer patients in western Washington use alternative therapies
and almost all report substantial improvements in well-being as a result of using alternative medicine, according to a Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Research Center survey.
The results of this survey - the first population-based study of its
kind to look at predictors, motivators and costs of different types of
alternative-medicine use in adults with cancer - appear today in The
Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine: Research on
Paradigm, Practice and Policy.
Ruth E. Patterson, Ph.D., R.D., and colleagues in Fred Hutchinson's
Public Health Sciences Division led the study, which was supported by
grants from the National Cancer Institute and funds from Fred Hutchinson. Researchers at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Wash., and
Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Ore., also consulted
on the project.
"This is the first study to specifically inquire about patients' attitudes
regarding the effectiveness of alternative treatments," Patterson said.
Patients were considered users of alternative medicine if they received care from an alternative provider within the past year or had
used at least one alternative supplement or therapy. Depending on the type of therapy, 83 percent to 97 percent of patients surveyed
said they used alternative medicine for general health and nearly all
reported that use of these therapies improved their well-being.
A smaller number of those surveyed, between 8 percent and 56 percent, turned to alternative interventions to treat their cancer.
Patients who underwent multiple medical therapies (chemotherapy, radiation, surgery) were twice as likely to use alternative medicine for
cancer treatment or symptom management as compared to those
who'd had surgery alone.
Seventeen percent of the patients received care from an alternative
provider such as a naturopathic doctor, spiritual advisor or massage
therapist, and 20 percent used some form of mental or energy-based therapy such as biofeedback, hypnotism, guided imagery, or use of
crystals, chelation therapy or magnets.
The most common form of alternative treatment among those surveyed was the use of dietary supplements, which were taken by
65 percent of the patients, many of whom used several such products simultaneously. The investigators classified all types of individual
supplements (vitamins, minerals, herbals and botanicals) as alternative, with the exception of one-a-day-type multivitamins
because these generally are accepted by mainstream medicine. While the use of alternative medicine is well known among adult cancer
patients, until now little has been known about which patients are most likely to use such therapies.
Cancer patients who were female and college-educated, for example,
were five times more likely to seek an alternative health-care provider
and twice as likely to take dietary supplements. Age also influenced
use; patients 60 and younger were nearly twice as apt to avail themselves of alternative treatment compared with those over age
Income, in contrast, was not significantly associated with alternative-therapy use and did not seem to be a barrier to
treatment. Overall, the median cost of alternative therapy was about
$70 per patient per year, although individual expenses ranged from $4
to $15,000. Dietary supplements averaged $50 per person annually.
Cancer type also appeared to influence alternative-therapy use;
compared with colorectal-cancer patients, those with breast cancer were significantly more likely to see alternative providers or take
"Because of the possibility of negative drug-herb interactions, as well
as the possibility that supplement use could interfere with chemotherapy, health-care providers need to be aware that
supplement use is common among cancer patients," Patterson said.
For example, antioxidants such as vitamins C and E may reduce the
effectiveness of chemotherapy, while herbs such as yew needle and the herbal tea essiac have been associated with heart and kidney
impairment, particularly when taken in conjunction with certain cancer
"Anyone who is in active cancer treatment should talk to their medical
team about the use of vitamins and supplements, which may need to be curtailed during treatment," she said.
The study findings suggest several key messages for health-care
practitioners. "First, since most therapies were used to enhance overall health and well-being, it seems unlikely that patients would
substitute these therapies for conventional medicine," Patterson said.
"Second, doctors should be wary of discounting alternative medicine,
given that the majority of patients overwhelmingly feel it improves
their quality of life. It is important for clinicians to show an open
attitude toward alternative medicine if they want patients to engage
in frank and honest discussion of these choices."
Knowledge regarding patient use of alternative medicine also is
important, she said, because such use may signal difficulties in coping
with the cancer or its treatments and may indicate the need for referral to mental health services or a support group. Use of
alternative medicine also may indicate a patient is motivated to make
healthful lifestyle changes. "Such patients may benefit from consultation with a nutritionist, physical therapist or other health-care
professional," she said.
The survey was based on telephone interviews with 356 adults who
had been diagnosed with breast, prostate or colon cancer between February 1997 and December 1998. The group was divided equally
among men and women, with equal representation among the three types of cancer. The participants were located through Fred
Hutchinson's Cancer Surveillance System, a population-based registry
of cancer incidence in western Washington that is part of a nationwide cancer registry funded by the National Cancer Institute.
One limitation to the study, Patterson noted, is that use of alternative
medicine could be high in western Washington for a variety of reasons. First, vitamin use is highest in the western United States
compared to other areas of the nation. Also, health insurers in
Washington are required by state law to provide coverage for licensed
alternative providers. As such, the results of this survey may not be
applicable to cancer patients in other states with less liberal coverage
of alternative-health services.
"Regardless of incidence of alternative-medicine use in Washington,
other studies also indicate that alternative-medicine use is common in
patients with cancer. For this reason, we recommend that longitudinal
studies be conducted to investigate associations of
alternative-medicine use with survival and quality of life in cancer
patients," Patterson said. "Such studies are needed urgently."
NOTE: To obtain a copy of the paper, "Types of Alternative Medicine
Used by Breast, Colon, and Prostate Cancer Patients: Predictors, Motives and Costs" by Patterson et al., The Journal of Alternative and
Complementary Medicine: Paradigm, Practice and Policy, Vol. 8, No. 4,
2002, pp. 477-485, visit the journal's Web site at www.liebertpub.com/acm or contact Vicki Cohn at
The Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, home of two Nobel
Prize laureates, is an independent, nonprofit research institution
dedicated to the development and advancement of biomedical
technology to eliminate cancer and other potentially fatal diseases.
Fred Hutchinson receives more funding from the National Institutes of
Health than any other independent U.S. research center. Recognized
internationally for its pioneering work in bone-marrow transplantation,
the center's four scientific divisions collaborate to form a unique
environment for conducting basic and applied science. Fred
Hutchinson is the only National Cancer Institute-designated
comprehensive cancer center in the Pacific Northwest and is one of
41 nationwide. For more information, visit the center's Web site at