Homeopathic Cancer Treatment:
Research Published from 2013 to 2017
With Permission from Manfred Mueller and www.TheHomeopathicCollege.org
INTRODUCTION TO HOMEOPATHIC CANCER TREATMENT
Dr. Moshe Frenkel, founder and director of the Integrative Medicine Clinic at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, recently observed1 that patients with cancer commonly use complementary and integrative medicine including homeopathy. According to Dr Frenkel, homeopathy has grown in popularity with the public but is still viewed with skepticism by medical academia and is still excluded from conventionally prescribed treatments. In recent years, homeopathy has been used widely in cancer care in Europe and many other countries worldwide. The global increased use of homeopathy in cancer care raises the question if there are any measurable benefits for cancer patients. In a 2015 commentary entitled “Is There a Role for Homeopathy in Cancer Care”, Dr Frenkel explored the evidence related to the benefit of homeopathy in cancer care.
Frenkel pointed out that limited research suggested that homeopathic drugs appear to cause cellular changes in some cancer cells. In animal models, several homeopathic medicines showed an inhibitory effect on certain tumor development. Some clinical studies of homeopathic remedies combined with conventional care have shown that homeopathic remedies improve quality of life, reduce symptom burden, and possibly improve survival in patients with cancer. The findings from several lab and clinical studies suggest that homeopathy might have some beneficial effect in cancer care. Dr. Frenkel concluded that further large, comprehensive clinical studies are needed to determine these beneficial effects. Although additional studies are needed to confirm these findings, given the low cost, minimal risks, and the potential magnitude of homeopathy’s effects, this use might be considered in certain situations as an additional tool to integrate into cancer care.
In two previous reviews in 2007 2 and 2012 3 published in The American Homeopath, we had called for making homeopathic cancer treatment more available, for very similar reasons. It has been five years since our last review was published. In the present review we summarize the most recent studies on homeopathic cancer treatment published, beginning in 2013. As in the previous reviews, the evidence shows that patients, not physicians, are the primary impetus for the increasing call for homeopathic cancer treatment worldwide. In the countries where homeopathic treatment is available, treatment is often provided in the absence of good professional references on homeopathic cancer drugs. To remedy this situation, in our recent book4 Homeopathic Cancer Drugs, we compiled data from more than 200 books covering over 2 centuries of homeopathic cancer therapies, making for the first time a comprehensive clinical reference work available to practitioners working in our field.
For the present review we selected recent research studies conducted in institutions across the world that investigated the efficacy of homeopathic drugs for the treatment of multiple cancers, their safety, their ability to counter side effects from conventional cancer therapies, or their capacity to improve the quality of life in cancer patients. We noticed that many more studies of this kind have been conducted on homeopathic cancer treatment than in any previous five-year period. While we welcome this in light of our past calls for increasing research, it has substantially increased the scope of the current paper. In our present random walk through research published in global peer-reviewed medical and scientific journals over the last five years, we let the evidence speak for itself.
PREVALENCE OF HOMEOPATHY IN CANCER CARE
Homeopathic cancer treatment has become almost commonplace in Europe. According to the public record, patients in Tuscany, Italy, routinely demand homeopathic and other therapies complementary to conventional cancer treatments. A 2017 study5 found that homeopathic treatment can reduce side effects and cancer-related symptoms, including hot flashes from surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation treatment. Researchers concluded that integration of evidence-based complementary treatments such as homeopathy allows for an effective response to the demand coming from cancer patients and combines safety and equity of access in public health care systems.
The Region of Tuscany Health Department was included as an associated member in WP7 “Healthcare” of the European Partnership for Action Against Cancer (EPAAC), initiated by the EU Commission in 2009.The principal aim was to map centers across Europe prioritizing those that provide public health services and operating within the national health system in integrative oncology (IO).
Researchers used6a cross-sectional descriptive survey design with a questionnaire regarding integrative oncology therapies to be administered to all the national health system oncology centers or hospitals in each European country. They identified these institutes by convenience sampling, searching on oncology websites and forums and be analyzing the official websites of these structures to obtain information about their activities and contacts.
Information was received from 123 (52.1 %) out of the 236 centers contacted until 31 December 2013. Forty-seven out of 99 responding centers meeting inclusion criteria (47.5 %) provided integrative oncology treatments, 24 from Italy and 23 from other European countries. The number of patients seen per year was on average 301.2 ± 337. Among the centers providing these kinds of therapies, 33 (70.2 %) use fixed protocols and 35 (74.5 %) use systems for the evaluation of results. Thirty-two centers (68.1 %) had research in progress or carried out until the deadline of the survey. The complementary and alternative medicines (CAMs) more frequently provided to cancer patients were acupuncture 26 (55.3 %), homeopathy 19 (40.4 %), herbal medicine 18 (38.3 %) and traditional Chinese medicine 17 (36.2 %); anthroposophic medicine 10 (21.3 %); homotoxicology 6 (12.8 %); and other therapies 30 (63.8 %). Treatments are mainly directed to reduce adverse reactions to chemo-radiotherapy (23.9 %), in particular nausea and vomiting (13.4 %) and leucopenia (5 %). The CAMs were also used to reduce pain and fatigue (10.9 %), to reduce side effects of iatrogenic menopause (8.8 %) and to improve anxiety and depression (5.9 %), gastrointestinal disorders (5 %), sleep disturbances and neuropathy (3.8 %).6
Reducing the Use of Cancer-Causing Hormone Drugs
Negative publicity in the UK about menopausal hormone therapy (MHT) (or hormone replacement therapy; HRT; in the United States), has led to increased use of complementary and alternative medicines (CAM), including homeopathy, and other non-pharmacological interventions (NPI) for menopausal symptom relief among UK postmenopausal women. The negative publicity was due to reports that they can induce cancer and heart disease. In a recent study 7 one in four postmenopausal women reported using CAM therapies/NPI for menopausal symptom relief, with lower use reported by older women. Higher levels of education and previous MHT use were positive predictors of CAM/NPI use.
Significant Use of Homeopathic Cancer Treatment in a UK Hospital
The UK is one of a few countries that actually have homeopathic hospitals. A new survey8 conducted to improve quality and outcomes of their hospital used Measure Yourself Medical Outcome Profile (MYMOP2) as a tool to assist clinicians in setting the treatment goals across a wide range of diagnoses and other complaints in routine clinical practice at the Bristol Homeopathic Hospital. A total of 198 patients with a wide range of complaints attended one to five consultations with 20 homeopathic doctors. Diagnostic categories were most commonly neoplasms (16.7%), psychological (13.9%) and genitourinary complaints (12.3%), with 66.7% suffering from these problems for at least one year. The three symptoms that bothered patients the most were pain, mental symptoms and tiredness/fatigue.
Homeopathy Most Use CAM in Cancer Patients in France
The overall clinical significance of improvements found in the survey was at least moderate. A repeated measures ANOVA test also showed statistically significant improvements (p<0.001). According to the researchers the study demonstrates that when patients with long-term conditions come under homeopathic care their presenting symptoms and wellbeing often improve. Offering a low cost high impact intervention to extend the range of choice to patients and to support self-care could be an important part of the National Health Service.
The first study in France on non-conventional medicine (NCM) use in patients two years after cancer diagnosis was based on data obtained in a 2012 survey of a representative sample of 4349 patients. Non-conventional treatments used were homeopathy (64.0%), acupuncture (22.1%), osteopathy (15.1%), herbal medicine (8.1%), diets (7.3%) and energy therapies (5.8%). In nearly half of the NCM users, cancer diagnosis was one of the main factors which incited patients to use unorthodox therapies. Apart from the NCM users’ socioeconomic profile, the results showed that impaired health was a decisive factor. The researchers concluded that opting for unconventional approaches was therefore a pragmatic response to needs which conventional medicine fails to meet during the course of the disease. They concluded further, that better information of patients and caregivers is needed to allow access to these therapies to a larger population of survivors.
Positive Effects – Homeopathy/CAM Used on Children/Adolescents with Cancer
Children and adolescents with cancer in Switzerland frequently use complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Swiss researchers recently investigated how and why.10Childhood cancer patients treated at the University Children’s Hospital Bern, Switzerland, between 2002-2011 were retrospectively surveyed about their use of CAM. Out of 133 patients (response rate: 52%) 53% had used CAM (mostly classical homeopathy) and 25% of patients received information about CAM from medical staff. Those diagnosed more recently were more likely to be informed about CAM options. The most frequent reason for choosing CAM was that parents thought it would improve the patient’s general condition. The most frequent reason for not using CAM was lack of information. Of those who used CAM, 87% perceived positive effects. The researchers recommended that since many pediatric oncology patients use CAM, patients’ needs should be addressed by open communication between families, treating oncologists and CAM therapists, which will allow parents to make informed and safe choices about using CAM.