Complementary and Alternative Medicine at NCI
In the last 5 years, NCI's research expenditures for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) have more than tripled, from a total of $28.2 million in FY 1998 to $94.3 million in FY 2003. NCI's Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) is largely responsible for the institute's growing research agenda in CAM related to cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, symptom management, and rehabilitation. Established in October 1998 and directed by medical oncologist Dr. Jeffrey White, OCCAM also acts as NCI's link to the public, the CAM community, and cancer researchers regarding CAM and cancer.
OCCAM has been building bridges between CAM practitioners and the cancer research community by creating funding opportunities to test CAM approaches using scientifically rigorous research methods, working with other NCI programs to facilitate testing of CAM approaches to cancer management, helping CAM researchers jump the hurdles in the grant application process, and investigating research challenges unique to CAM approaches. In addition, OCCAM collaborates with other governmental and nongovernmental organizations, such as the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, on cancer CAM issues. OCCAM also supports high-quality CAM cancer research and information dissemination through three program areas focusing on research, practice assessment, and communications.
Through its Research Development and Support Program (RDSP), OCCAM has expanded the funding opportunities for research in cancer CAM. RDSP staff assist investigators in identifying funding opportunities and provide assistance in the pre- and post-review periods of grant application. In addition, the program director, Dr. Wendy Smith, coordinates NCI CAM programs and initiatives designed to stimulate research in cancer CAM as well as activities to develop the foundation of the science in cancer CAM research. RDSP activities have included the establishment of an expert panel on methodologies in cancer CAM symptoms research, an invited speaker series, and a workshop to assist investigators in preparing grant applications in cancer CAM. Summaries of the information from these endeavors are available at the OCCAM Web site.
One grant recently added to the RDSP portfolio supports a collaboration between the University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and the Cancer Hospital at Fudan University in Shanghai. Together, these institutions are developing the International Center for Traditional Chinese Medicine for Cancer. This center will study herbal products, acupuncture, and mind-body interventions such as qi gong.
OCCAM's Practice Assessment Program, managed by Colleen Lee, reviews retrospective and prospective data on cancer patients treated with unconventional therapies. The most well-known component of the Practice Assessment Program is the Best Case Series Program, which provides an opportunity for CAM practitioners to share information about their successes. Practitioners are asked to submit documentation and original pathology slides and radiographic films on patients who have had objective antitumor responses while receiving unconventional therapies. Therapies that show promise may undergo further study with support from NCI. Such a study is being planned as a follow-up to a case series presented by the P. Banerji Homeopathic Research Foundation in Calcutta, India.
OCCAM's Communications Program, managed by Anne Washburn, develops and disseminates information about NCI program initiatives, funding opportunities, and educational materials via the OCCAM Web site and through outreach to the cancer patient community. This program also assesses the opinions and interests of cancer researchers, CAM practitioners, and cancer patients regarding CAM research and assesses information needs via surveys and focus groups. Results from these explorations will be used to develop programs that are most helpful for cancer patients and health care providers and researchers.
For more information about OCCAM and NCI's CAM activities please visit http://cancer.gov/cam.