MD, PhD, FMedSci, FRSB, FRCP, FRCPEd.

Cancer

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The use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is common among breast cancer patients, but less is known about whether SCAM influences breast cancer survival. The primary aim of this recent study from Tunesia was to determine the impact of self-use of herbs on the overall survival of women with breast cancer.

The researchers conducted a prospective study including 110 patients with breast cancer. All patients were questioned about their usage of herbal remedies. The demographic data and the overall survival of the patients were then analyzed.

The average age was 51 years (30-80 years old). In total, 37 had metastatic disease (33.6%), and 48 patients had taken plant-based treatments (43.6%). Of those women, 19 patients consumed Graviola (39.6%) and 29 Alenda (60.4%). Overall survival rates at 3 years and at 5 years were 96.2% and 82.4% in the absence of herbal medicine usage versus 78.5% and 78.5% in the presence of herbal medicine use (p = 0.015).

The authors concluded that self-medication with Graviola or Alenda may be associated with an increase of death risk in patients with breast cancer. Further studies are needed to confirm these results.

This is only a small and not very rigorous case-control study. In itself, it would be far from conclusive. What renders it relevant, however, is the fact that its findings do by no means stand alone. We have seen several times on this blog that SCAM use can shorten the life of cancer patients, e.g.:

So, perhaps it is true? Perhaps using SCAM is not such a good idea, if you are suffering from cancer!

The mechanisms of such detrimental effects are not difficult to imagine. They might include direct effects on the cancer, interactions with prescribed drugs, delay of cancer diagnosis, or less strict adherence to the anti-cancer treatments.

As often mentioned in previous posts, the ‘Heilpraktiker’ is a recognized healthcare professional in Germany that was established during the Third Reich. Despite the fact that a Heilpraktiker doesn’t necessarily undergo any meaningful medical training, they are permitted to do almost all the treatments a medically trained practitioner can carry out. This situation has created a two-tier healthcare system in Germany which many experts find unacceptable. Reports of patients being seriously harmed are reported with depressing regularity.

It has been reported that a German woman suffering from cancer discontinued her conventional oncological treatments and had herself treated with preparations made from snake venom. After she died of her cancer, the practitioner of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM), a Heilpraktiker, was ordered to pay compensation for pain and suffering. The practitioner must now pay 30,000 Euros in compensation for pain and suffering to her son. This was decided by a court in Munich in a landmark ruling on Thursday. The boy’s father had originally demanded 170,000 Euros.

The deceased patient had been suffering from cervical cancer with a good prognosis. She decided to abandon radiation and chemotherapy and instead opted for preparations made from snake venom, which she received from her SCAM practitioner.

“The defendant did not actively advise her patient to discontinue the life-saving radiation therapy,” the court found, but “she did not oppose her decision, which as a Heilpraktiker would have been her duty.” In the court’s view, the Heilpraktiker should have advised her patient to resume chemotherapy. “This continued omission by the defendant over a period of weeks was irresponsible and, from the point of view of a responsible healthcare practitioner, utterly incomprehensible.” In addition to damages for pain and suffering, the Heilpraktiker was ordered to pay damages for lost child support, among other things. The court did not allow an appeal against the verdict.

The case seems unusual in that the court found a SCAM practitioner guilty not because of administering a bogus or harmful treatment, but because of failing to provide essential advice. This could have consequences for many legal cases in the future.

If I understand it correctly, it means that, according to German law, healthcare practitioners can be held responsible not just for what they were doing, but also for what they were not doing, and that this form of neglect extends not just to treatments and procedures, but also to advice. If that is true, a German homeopath treating an asthma patient, for instance, could be sued if he fails to advise that his patient also takes essential conventional medications.

It would be valuable to have the opinion of legal experts on this point and on the question of how the law in other counties would apply in such matters.

This recent article is truly remarkable:

There is a faction within the chiropractic profession passionately advocating against the routine use of X-rays in the diagnosis, treatment and management of patients with spinal disorders (aka subluxation). These activists reiterate common false statements such as “there is no evidence” for biomechanical spine assessment by X-ray, “there are no guidelines” supporting routine imaging, and also promulgate the reiterating narrative that “X-rays are dangerous.” These arguments come in the form of recycled allopathic “red flag only” medical guidelines for spine care, opinion pieces and consensus statements. Herein, we review these common arguments and present compelling data refuting such claims. It quickly becomes evident that these statements are false. They are based on cherry-picked medical references and, most importantly, expansive evidence against this narrative continues to be ignored. Factually, there is considerable evidential support for routine use of radiological imaging in chiropractic and manual therapies for 3 main purposes: 1. To assess spinopelvic biomechanical parameters; 2. To screen for relative and absolute contraindications; 3. To reassess a patient’s progress from some forms of spine altering treatments. Finally, and most importantly, we summarize why the long-held notion of carcinogenicity from X-rays is not a valid argument.

Not only is low dose radiation not detrimental, but it also protects us from cancer, according to the authors:

Exposures to low-dose radiation incites multiple and multi-hierarchical biopositive mechanisms that prevent, repair or remove damage caused mostly by endogenous reactive oxygen species (ROS) and H2O2 from aerobic metabolism. Indeed, non-radiogenic (i.e. naturally occurring) molecular damage occurs daily at rates many orders of magnitude greater than the rate of damage caused by low-dose radiation such as diagnostic X-rays. It is estimated that the endogenous genetic damage caused on a daily basis from simply breathing air is about one million times the damage initially resulting from an X-ray. We concur that “it is factually preposterous to have radiophobic cancer concerns from medical X-rays after considering the daily burden of endogenous DNA damage.”

And, of course, radiological imaging makes sense in cases of non-specific back pain due to ‘malalignment’ of the spine:

Pressures to restrict the use of “repeat” (i.e. follow-up) X-rays for assessing patient response to treatment shows a complete disregard for the evidence discussed that definitively illustrates how modern spine rehabilitation techniques and practices successfully re-align the spine and pelvis for a wide variety of presenting subluxation/deformity patterns. The continued anti-X-ray sentiment from “consensus” and opinion within chiropractic needs to stop; it is antithetical to scientific reality and to the practice of contemporary chiropractic practice. We reiterate a quote from the late Michael A. Persinger: “what is happening in recent years is that facts are being defined by consensus. If a group of people think that something is correct, therefore it’s true, and that’s contradictory to science.”

Thus, the authors feel entitled to conclude:

Routine and repeat X-rays in the nonsurgical treatment of patients with spine disorders is an evidence-based clinical practice that is warranted by those that practice spine-altering methods. The evidence supporting such practices is based on definitive evidence supporting the rationale to assess a patient’s spinopelvic parameters for biomechanical diagnosis, to screen for relative and absolute contraindications for specific spine care methods, and to re-assess the spine and postural response to treatment.

The traditional and underlying presumption of the carcinogenicity from X-rays is not a valid notion because the LNT is not valid for low-dose exposures. The ALARA radiation protection principle is obsolete, the threshold for harm is high, low-dose exposures prevent cancers by stimulating and upregulating the body’s innate adaptive protection mechanisms, the TCD concept in invalid, and aged cohort studies assumed to show cancers resulting from previous X-rays are not generalizable to the wider population because they represent populations predisposed to cancers.

Red flags, or suspected serious underlying disease is a valid consideration warranting screening imaging by all spine care providers. We contend, however, that as long as the treating physician or rehabilitation therapist is practicing evidence-based methods, proven to improve spine and postural parameters in order to provide relief for the myriad of spinal disorders, spinal X-rays are unequivocally justified. Non-surgical spine care guidelines need to account for proven and evolving non-surgical methods that are radiographically guided, patient-centered, and competently practiced by those specialty trained in such methods. This is over and above so-called “red flag only” guidelines. The efforts to universally dissuade chiropractors from routine and repeat X-ray imaging is neither scientifically justified nor ethical.

There seems to be just one problem here: the broad consensus is against almost anything these authors claim.

Oh, I almost forgot: this paper was authored and sponsored by CBP NonProfit.

“The mission of Chiropractic BioPhysics® (CBP®) Non-Profit is to provide a research based response to these changing times that is clinically, technically, and philosophically sound. By joining together, we can participate in the redefinition and updating of the chiropractic profession through state of the art spine research efforts. This journey, all of us must take as a Chiropractic health care profession to become the best we can be for the sake of the betterment of patient care. CBP Non-Profit’s efforts focus on corrective Chiropractic care through structural rehabilitation of the spine and posture. Further, CBP Non-Profit, Inc. has in its purpose to fund Chiropractic student scholarships where appropriate as well as donate needed chiropractic equipment to chiropractic colleges; always trying to support chiropractic advancement and education.”

 This study aimed to evaluate the effect of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) on patients with gastric cancer following surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy in Taiwan. The cohort sampling data set was obtained from the Registry of Catastrophic Illness Patient Database, a research database of patients with severe illnesses from the National Health Insurance Research Database, Taiwan. Patients who had received a new diagnosis of gastric cancer and had undergone surgery were enrolled. the researchers matched TCM users and nonusers at a ratio of 1 : 3 based on the propensity score, and TCM users were also grouped into short-term and long-term users.

The number of TCM users and nonusers was 1701 and 5103 after applying the propensity score at a ratio of 1 : 3. Short-term users and long-term TCM users were independently associated with a decreased risk of death with HRs of 0.59 (95% confidence interval (CI), 0.55-0.65) and 0.41 (95% CI, 0.36-0.47), respectively, compared with TCM nonusers. The researchers also obtained similar results when they adjusted for covariates in the main model, as well as each of the additional listed covariates. They also observed similar HR trends in short-term users and long-term TCM users among men and women aged <65 years and ≥65 years. The most commonly prescribed single herb and herbal formula in our cohort were Hwang-Chyi (Radix Hedysari; 11.8%) and Xiang-Sha-Liu-Jun-Zi-Tang (15.5%), respectively.

The authors concluded that TCM use was associated with higher survival in patients with gastric cancer after surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy. TCM could be used as a complementary and alternative therapy in patients with gastric cancer after surgery and adjuvant chemotherapy.

This is an interesting study which seems well-done – except for one fatal mistake: even in the title, the authors imply a causal relationship between TCM and survival. Their conclusion has two sentences; the first one speaks correctly of an association. The second, however, not only implies causality but goes much further in suggesting that TCM should be used to prolong the life of patients. Yet, there are, of course, dozens of factors that could interfere with the findings or be the true cause of the observed outcome.

Anyone with a minimum of critical thinking ability should know that CORRELATION IS NOT CAUSATION; sadly, the authors of this study seem to be the exception.

The purpose of this survey (the authors call it a ‘study’) was to evaluate the patient-perceived benefit of yoga for symptoms commonly experienced by breast cancer survivors.

A total of 1,049 breast cancer survivors who had self-reported use of yoga on a follow-up survey, in an ongoing prospective Mayo Clinic Breast Disease Registry (MCBDR), received an additional mailed yoga-focused survey asking about the impact of yoga on a variety of symptoms. Differences between pre-and post- scores were assessed using Wilcoxon Signed Rank Test.

802/1,049 (76%) of women who were approached to participate, consented and returned the survey. 507/802 (63%) reported use of yoga during and/or after their cancer diagnosis. The vast majority of respondents (89.4%) reported some symptomatic benefit from yoga. The most common symptoms that prompted the use of yoga were breast/chest wall pain, lymphedema, and anxiety. Only 9% of patients reported that they had been referred to yoga by a medical professional. While the greatest symptom improvement was reported with breast/chest wall pain and anxiety, significant improvement was also perceived in joint pain, muscle pain, fatigue, headache, quality of life, hot flashes, nausea/vomiting, depression, insomnia, lymphedema, and peripheral neuropathy, (all p-values <0.004).

The authors concluded that data supporting the use of yoga for symptom management after cancer are limited and typically focus on mental health. In this study, users of yoga often reported physical benefits as well as mental health benefits. Further prospective studies investigating the efficacy of yoga in survivorship are warranted.

I have little doubt that yoga is helpful during palliative and supportive cancer care (but all the more doubts that this new paper will further the reputation of research in this area). In fact, contrary to what the conclusions state, there is quite good evidence for this assumption:

  • A 2009 systematic review included 10 clinical trials. Its authors concluded that although some positive results were noted, variability across studies and methodological drawbacks limit the extent to which yoga can be deemed effective for managing cancer-related symptoms.
  • A 2017 systematic review with 25 clinical trials concluded that among adults undergoing cancer treatment, evidence supports recommending yoga for improving psychological outcomes, with potential for also improving physical symptoms. Evidence is insufficient to evaluate the efficacy of yoga in pediatric oncology.
  • A 2017 Cochrane review included 24 studies and found that moderate-quality evidence supports the recommendation of yoga as a supportive intervention for improving health-related quality of life and reducing fatigue and sleep disturbances when compared with no therapy, as well as for reducing depression, anxiety and fatigue, when compared with psychosocial/educational interventions. Very low-quality evidence suggests that yoga might be as effective as other exercise interventions and might be used as an alternative to other exercise programmes.[3]

So, why publish a paper like the one above?

Search me!

To be able to add one more publication to the authors’ lists?

And why would the journal editor go along with this nonsense?

Search me again!

No, hold on: Global Advances in Health and Medicine, the journal that carried the survey, is published in association with Academic Consortium for Integrative Medicine & Health.

Yes, that explains a lot.

As I have pointed out several times before, surveys of this nature are like going into a Mac Donald’s and asking the customers whether they like Hamburgers. You might then also find that “the vast majority of respondents (89.4%) reported”… blah, blah, blah.

The title of the paper is ‘Real-World Experiences With Yoga on Cancer-Related Symptoms in Women With Breast Cancer‘.

 

 

 

PS

NOTE TO MYSELF: never touch a paper with ‘real-world experience’ in the title.

 

The aim of the paper (published in ‘HOMEOPATHY’) was to perform a systematic review of basic research of homeopathic high dilutions in cancer.

Following the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses (PRISMA) guideline, we conducted a literature search in the database PubMed for original publications, from 2000 to 2018 and in English, on in vitro and in vivo experimental cancer models testing homeopathic high dilutions.

Twenty-three articles met the inclusion criteria-14 in vitro, eight in vivo, and one in vitro plus in vivo experimental models. Most studies were from India. Research prominently focused on cytotoxic effects involving apoptotic mechanisms. Intrinsic aspects of homeopathy should be considered in experimental designs to emphasize the specificity of such effects.

The authors concluded that fundamental research of homeopathy in cancer is still at an early stage and has mainly been performed by a few groups of investigators. The results point to an interference of well-selected homeopathic medicines with cell cycle and apoptotic mechanisms in cancer cells. However, these findings still need independent reproduction.

I happen to be a co-author of the PRISMA guideline and can assure you that this systematic review is very far from adhering to it. It borders on fraud to state otherwise; at the very minimum, the authors, the editor of ‘HOMEOPATHY‘, as well as the reviewers of this article are guilty of seriously misleading the public. Any reputable journal would have insisted that the abstract of this paper makes the following points very clear so that misunderstandings are avoided:

  1. There is no valid hypothesis to suggest that homeopathic high dilutions affect cancer.
  2. The included studies are mostly of poor or very poor quality.
  3. The results of such pre-clinical in vitro and in vivo experiments have little bearing on the treatment of human cancers.
  4. The fact that independent replications are missing suggests that these studies are irreproducible.
  5. The fact that most studies originate from the same research groups implies that homeopathy is not considered to be a viable avenue by rational thinkers.
  6. In the interest of cancer patients, the idea that homeopathy might be of any use in cancer needs to be discouraged.

In one of my last posts, I stated that research into so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) is fast becoming the laughing stock of serious scientists. This paper is an excellent example of this phenomenon.

 

The objective of this survey was to determine

  1. which patients’ characteristics are associated with the use of so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) during cancer treatment,
  2. their pattern of use,
  3. and if it has any association with its safety profile.

A total of 316 patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment in cancer centers in Poland between 2017 and 2019 were asked about their use of SCAM.

Patients’ opinion regarding the safety of unconventional methods is related to the use of SCAM. Moreover, patients’ thinking that SCAM can replace conventional therapy was correlated with his/her education. Moreover, the researchers performed analyses to determine factors associated with SCAM use including sociodemographic and clinical characteristics.

Crucially, they also conducted a survival analysis of patients undergoing chemotherapy with 42 months of follow-up. Using Kaplan-Meier curves and log-rank analysis, they found no statistical difference in overall survival between the groups that used and did not use any form of SCAM.

The authors concluded that SCAM use is common among patients undergoing chemotherapy treatment and should be considered by medical teams as some agents may interact with chemotherapy drugs and affect their efficacy or cause adverse effects.

As I have stated before, I find most surveys of SCAM use meaningless. This article is no exception – except for the survival analysis. It would have merited a separate, more detailed paper, yet the authors hardly comment on it. The analysis shows that SCAM users do not live longer than non-users. Previously, we have discussed several studies that suggested they live less long than non-users.

While this aspect of the new study is interesting, it proves very little. There are, of course, multiple factors involved in the survival of cancer patients, and even if SCAM use were a determinant, it is surely less important than many other factors. To get a better impression of the role SCAM plays, we need studies that carefully match patients according to the most obvious prognostic variables (RCTs would be problematic, difficult to do and unethical). Such studies do exist and they too fail to show that SCAM use prolongs survival, some even suggest it might shorten survival.

The aim of this investigation was to evaluate the marketing practices, beliefs and health claims regarding the use of colloidal silver in Finland. Contents of three company websites selling colloidal silver were reviewed, and the claims used in the marketing of colloidal silver were compared to the scientific information about silver. In Facebook posts and discussion about colloidal silver were analyzed.

In Finland, the marketing of colloidal silver products on websites selling the products did not follow the regulations of authorities; several scientifically unfounded claims about the efficacy and medical use of colloidal silver were found. After the Finnish Broadcasting Company (Yle) documentary and an intervention by authorities, contents of the websites were changed, but still questionable information and misleading claims could be found. In the analyzed Facebook groups attitudes towards medical use of colloidal silver were uncritically positive, internal use was highly promoted and the restrictions of use were considered unjustified.

The authors concluded that the use of quackery products such as colloidal silver can be dangerous, and their use and marketing should be controlled and restricted.

The authors stress that silver nanoparticles (AgNPs) are potentially toxic due to their small size and Ag+-release capabilities, and the use of colloidal silver products containing AgNPs can cause a wide variety of adverse effects such as argyria.

WebMD cautions that despite promoters’ claims, silver has no known function in the body and is not an essential mineral supplement. Colloidal silver products were once available as over-the-counter drug products. In 1999 the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) ruled that these colloidal silver products were not considered safe or effective. Colloidal silver products marketed for medical purposes or promoted for unproven uses are now considered “misbranded” under the law without appropriate FDA approval as a new drug. There are currently no FDA-approved over-the-counter or prescription drugs containing silver that are taken by mouth. However, there are still colloidal silver products being sold as homeopathic remedies and dietary supplements.

On this blog, we have discussed that colloidal silver is nevertheless marketed aggressively by crooks (see here and here). The message that emerges from all this seems clear: do not fall for the plethora of false claims made by irresponsible entrepreneurs who want your money and risk your health. Keep your money and health by staying away from colloidal silver and similar SCAMs.

The authors of this review wanted to determine similarities and differences in the reasons for using or not using so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) amongst general and condition-specific populations, and amongst populations in each region of the globe.

Quantitative or qualitative original articles in English, published between 2003 and 2018 were reviewed. Conference proceedings, pilot studies, protocols, letters, and reviews were excluded. Papers were appraised using valid tools and a ‘risk of bias’ assessment was also performed. Thematic analysis was conducted. Reasons were coded in each paper, then codes were grouped into categories. If several categories reported similar reasons, these were combined into a theme. Themes were then analysed using χ2 tests to identify the main factors related to reasons for CAM usage.

A total of 231 publications were included. Reasons for SCAM use amongst general and condition-specific populations were similar. The top three reasons were:

  • (1) having an expectation of benefits of SCAM (84% of publications),
  • (2) dissatisfaction with conventional medicine (37%),
  • (3) the perceived safety of SCAM (37%).

Internal health locus of control as an influencing factor was more likely to be reported in Western populations, whereas the social networks was a common factor amongst Asian populations (p < 0.05). Affordability, easy access to SCAM and tradition were significant factors amongst African populations (p < 0.05). Negative attitudes towards SCAM and satisfaction with conventional medicine were the main reasons for non-use (p < 0.05).

The authors concluded that dissatisfaction with conventional medicine and positive attitudes toward SCAM, motivate people to use SCAM. In contrast, satisfaction with conventional medicine and negative attitudes towards SCAM are the main reasons for non-use.

At this point, I thought: so what? This is all very obvious and does not necessitate an extensive review of the published literature. What it actually shows is that the realm of SCAM is obsessed with conducting largely useless surveys, a phenomenon, I once called ‘survey mania‘. But a closer look at the review does reveal some potentially interesting findings.

In less developed parts of the world, like Africa, SCAM use seems to be determined by affordability, accessibility and tradition. This makes sense and ties in with my impression that consumers in such countries would give up SCAM as soon as they can afford proper medicine.

This notion seems to be further supported by the reasons for not using SCAM. Asian consumers claim overwhelmingly that this is because they consider SCAM ineffective and unsafe.

In our review of 2011 (not cited in the new review), we looked at some of the issues from a slightly different angle and evaluated the expectations of SCAM users. Seventy-three articles met our inclusion criteria of our review. A wide range of expectations emerged. In order of prevalence, they included:

  • the hope to influence the natural history of the disease;
  • the desire to prevent disease and promote health/general well-being;
  • the hope of fewer side effects;
  • the wish to be in control over one’s health;
  • the hope for symptom relief;
  • the ambition to boost the immune system;
  • the hope to receive emotional support;
  • the wish to receive holistic care;
  • the hope to improve quality of life;
  • the expectation to relief of side effects of conventional medicine;
  • the desire for a good therapeutic relationship;
  • the hope to obtain information;
  • the hope of coping better with illness;
  • the expectation of supporting the natural healing process;
  • the availability of SCAM.

All of these aspects, issues and notions might be interesting, even fascinating to some, but we should not forget three important caveats:

  • Firstly, SCAM is such a diverse area that any of the above generalisations are highly problematic; the reasons and expectations of someone trying acupuncture may be entirely different from those of someone using homeopathy, for instance.
  • Secondly (and more importantly), the ‘survey mania’ of SCAM researchers has not generated the most reliable data; in fact, most of the papers are hardly worth the paper they were printed on.
  • Thirdly (and even more importantly, in my view), why should any of this matter? We have known about some of these issues for at least 3 decades. Has this line of research changed anything? Has it prevented consumers getting exploited by scrupulous SCAM entrepreneurs? Has it made consumers, politicians or anyone else more aware of the risks associated with SCAM? Has it saved many lives? I doubt it!

Acupuncture-moxibustion therapy (AMT) is a so-called alternative medicine (SCAM) that has been used for centuries in treatment of numerous diseases. Some enthusiasts even seem to advocate it for chemotherapy-induced leukopenia (CIL)  The purpose of this review was to evaluate the efficacy and safety of acupuncture-moxibustion therapy in treating CIL.

Relevant studies were searched in 9 databases up to September 19, 2020. Two reviewers independently screened the studies for eligibility, extracted data, and assessed the methodological quality of selected studies. Meta-analysis of the pooled mean difference (MD) and risk ratio (RR) with their respective 95% confidence intervals (CI) were calculated.

Seventeen studies (1206 patients) were included, and the overall quality of the included studies was moderate. In comparison with medical therapy, AMT has a better clinical efficacy for CIL (RR, 1.24; 95% CI, 1.17-1.32; P < 0.00001) and presents advantages in increasing leukocyte count (MD, 1.10; 95% CI, 0.67-1.53; P < 0.00001). Also, the statistical results show that AMT performs better in improving the CIL patients’ Karnofsky performance score (MD, 5.92; 95% CI, 3.03-8.81; P < 0.00001).

The authors concluded that this systematic review and meta-analysis provides updated evidence that AMT is a safe and effective alternative for the patients who suffered from CIL.

A CIL is a serious complication. If I ever were afflicted by it, I would swiftly send any acupuncturist approaching my sickbed packing.

But this is not an evidence-based attitude!!!, I hear some TCM-fans mutter. What more do you want that a systematic review showing it works?

I beg to differ. Why? Because the ‘evidence’ is hardly what critical thinkers can accept as evidence. Have a look at the list of the primary studies included in this review:

  1. Lin Z. T., Wang Q., Yu Y. N., Lu J. S. Clinical observation of post-chemotherapy-leukopenia treated with ShenMai injectionon ST36. World Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine2010;5(10):873–876. []
  2. Wang H. Clinical Observation of Acupoint Moxibustion on Leukopenia Caused by Chemotherapy. Beijing, China: Beijing University of Chinese Medicine; 2011. []
  3. Fan J. Y. Coupling of Yin and Yang between Ginger Moxibustion Improve the Clinical Effect of the Treatment of Chemotherapy Adverse Reaction. Henan, China: Henan University of Chinese Medicine; 2013. []
  4. Lu D. R., Lu D. X., Wei M., et al. Acupoint injection with addie injection for patients of nausea and vomiting with cisplatin induced by chemotherapy. Journal of Clinical Acupuncture and Moxibustion2013;29(10):33–38. []
  5. Yang J. E. The Clinical Observation on Treatment of Leukopenia after Chemotherapy with Needle Warming Moxibustion. Hubei, China: Hubei University of Chinese Medicine; 2013. []
  6. Fu Y. H., Chi C. Y., Zhang C. Y. Clinical effect of acupuncture and moxibustion on leukopenia after chemotherapy of malignant tumor. Guide of China Medicine2014;12(12) []
  7. Wang J. N., Zhang W. X., Gu Q. H., Jiao J. P., Liu L., Wei P. K. Protection of herb-partitioned moxibustion on bone marrow suppression of gastric cancer patients in chemotherapy period. Chinese Archives of Traditional Chinese Medicine2014;32(12):110–113. []
  8. Zhang J. The Clinical Research on Myelosuppression and Quality of Life after Chemotherapy Treated by Grain-Sized Moxibustion. Nanjing, China: Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine; 2014. []
  9. Tian H., Lin H., Zhang L., Fan Z. N., Zhang Z. L. Effective research on treating leukopenia following chemotherapy by moxibustion. Clinical Journal of Chinese Medicine2015;7(10):35–38. []
  10. Hu G. W., Wang J. D., Zhao C. Y. Effect of acupuncture on the first WBC reduction after chemotherapy for breast cancer. Beijing Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine2016;35(8):777–779. []
  11. Zhu D. L., Lu H. Y., Lu Y. Y., Wu L. J. Clinical observation of Qi-blood-supplementing needling for leukopenia after chemotherapy for breast cancer. Shanghai Journal of Acupuncture and Moxibustion2016;35(8):964–966. []
  12. Chen L, Xu G. Y. Observation on the prevention and treatment of chemotherapy-induced leukopenia by moxibustion therapy. Zhejiang Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine2016;51(8):p. 600. []
  13. Mo T., Tian H., Yue S. B., Fan Z. N., Zhang Z. L. Clinical observation of acupoint moxibustion on leukocytopenia caused by tumor chemotherapy. World Chinese Medicine2016;11(10):2120–2122. []
  14. Nie C. M. Nursing observation of acupoint moxibustion in the treatment of leucopenia after chemotherapy. Today Nurse2017;4:93–95. []
  15. Wang D. Y. Clinical Research on Post-chemotherapy-leukopenia with Spleen-Kidney Yang Deficiency in Colorectal Cancer Treated with Point-Injection. Yunnan, China: Yunnan University of Chinese Medicine; 2017. []
  16. Gong Y. Q, Zhang M. Q, Zhang B. C. Prevention and treatment of leucocytopenia after chemotherapy in patients with malignant tumor with ginger partitioned moxibustion. Chinese Medicine Modern Distance Education of China2018;16(21):135–137. []
  17. Li Z. C., Lian M. J., Miao F. G. Clinical observation of fuzheng moxibustion combined with wenyang shengbai decoction in the treatment of 80 cases of leukopenia after chemotherapy. Hunan Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine2019;35(3):64–66. []

Notice anything peculiar?

  • The studies are all from China where data fabrication was reported to be rife.
  • They are mostly unavailable for checking (why the published adds links that go nowhere is beyond me).
  • Many do not look at all like randomised clinical trials (which, according to the authors, was an inclusion criterion).
  • Many do not look as though their primary endpoint was the leukocyte count (which, according to the authors, was another inclusion criterion).

Intriguingly, the authors conclude that AMT is not just effective but also ‘safe’. How do they know? According to their own data extraction table, most studies failed to mention adverse effects. And how exactly is acupuncture supposed to increase my leukocyte count? Here is what the authors offer as a mode of action:

Based on the theory of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), CIL belongs to the category of consumptive disease, owing to the exhaustion of genuine qi in the zang-fu viscera and the insufficiency of kidney essence and qi-blood. Researchers believe that there is an intimate association between the occurrence of malignant tumors and the deficiency of genuine qi. During attacking the cancer cells, chemotherapeutics also damaged the function of zang-fu viscera and qi-blood, leading to CIL. According to the theory of TCM and meridian, acupuncture-moxibustion is an ancient therapeutic modality that may be traced back more than 3500 years in China. Through meridian conduction, acupuncture-moxibustion therapy stimulates acupoints to strengthen the condition of zang-fu viscera and immune function, supporting genuine qi to improve symptoms of consumption.

I think it is high time that we stop tolerating that the medical literature gets polluted with such nonsense (helped, of course, by journals that are beyond the pale) – someone might actually believe it, in which case it would surely hasten the death of vulnerable patients.

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