In the autumn of 2011, we published the Pine Street Survival Study, our landmark lung and colon cancer survival study research papers. Both papers were published in one of the leading journals focusing on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) specific to the needs of people with cancer: Integrative Cancer Therapies.
In our study, we looked at whether complementary and alternative medical therapy in combination with standard treatments helped extend survival in people with lung and colon cancers. The treatments being examined combined Chinese herbal medicine, vitamins, acupuncture, exercise, dietary guidance, and meditation into a comprehensive approach that in research is called a “Whole Systems” protocol.
In conducting this study, the Pine Street Foundation collaborated with scientists at the University of California Berkeley, University of Cali- fornia San Francisco, Kaiser Permanente, and the California Cancer Registry. Pine Street’s Clinical Director, Michael Broffman, led data collection efforts and Research Director, Michael McCulloch, designed the data analysis, which involved a novel approach that had not yet been done before with CAM studies of cancer treatment.
The primary data source being used for the Pine Street Foundation’s Survival Study is a large database developed from ten years of follow- up records on patients treated between 1989 and 1993 at the Pine Street Clinic in San Anselmo, California. This database contains follow- up results on 235 patients with lung cancer and 193 patients with colon cancer. Because these data were recorded in a consecutive case series, they contain the records of all patients with these conditions treated by the Pine Street Clinic. This is important because the survival data from this set of patients are a complete representation of the treatment experience at the Pine Street Clinic with these patients, and not sim- ply the hand-picked “best case” records often seen in studies of CAM therapies.
The common variables examined for each patient included how long patients received a specific therapy as well as specific dosage schedules of herbal-vitamin products. Data have also been collected on the most important characteristics of patients treated, including age, gender, biopsy results (cell type), stage of disease, type of conventional treatment received, and ethnicity. This allowed for the analysis of the impact of treatment protocol on overall survival.
Using these data, survival among the Pine Street Clinic patients – those using CAM – was compared to survival of patients who did not use CAM. Those comparison patients were obtained from data from local Kaiser Permanente hospitals as well as from the National Cancer In- stitute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER) database.
RESULTS OF THIS STUDY
Patients with both lung and colon cancers who used herbal and vitamin therapy had significantly longer survival than carefully matched controls whose records were obtained from local cancer registries:
» In patients with lung cancer, combination therapy reduced the risk of death in stage IIIA patients by 46%, stage IIIB by 62%, and stage IV by 69%, compared with conventional therapy alone.
» In patients with colon cancer, combination therapy reduced the risk of death in stage I by 95%, stage II by 64%, stage III by 29%, and stage IV by 75%, compared with conventional therapy alone.
Patients with advanced (stage IIIB and IV) lung cancer who continued with long-term use of herbal and vitamin therapy after treatment survived significantly longer than those who used it only short-term during their chemotherapy programs:
» Long-term use of herbal/vitamin therapy beyond completion of chemotherapy reduced stage IIIB deaths by 83% and stage IV by 72%, compared with short-term use only for the duration of chemotherapy.
For colon cancer patients, however, there was no significant difference in survival between people using CAM short-term versus long-term.
WHY THIS STUDY IS IMPORTANT
Large numbers of people throughout the United States – as many as 36% of adults – are using complementary and alternative medicine. However, there are very few published papers that specifically examine one of the most important questions patients diagnosed with cancer ask: Will combin- ing complementary and alternative medicine together with my conventional therapies help me live longer? Our papers provide preliminary data suggesting that the approach used in our Pine Street Survival Study (a comprehensive combination of herbal medicine, antioxidants, vitamins, exer- cise, healthful eating, and stress reduction) can significantly improve longevity when used in concert with conventional treatments.
If you would like to receive a complete copy of these studies, please contact us and we will send you a copy via email when we have permission from the publisher to do so.