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Oncology News Central (ONC)Skeptical Docs vs. Patient Demand? Integrative Oncology Moves Toward Standard of Care

Integrative Oncology Gains Traction Amid Skepticism and Patient Demand

As the 20th annual Society of Integrative Oncology (SIO) conference approaches, oncologists are preparing to discuss the latest advances and challenges in integrative therapies for cancer care. The conference follows the recent release of guidelines by SIO and the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) that endorse mindfulness-based interventions and other integrative therapies for managing anxiety and depression in cancer patients. Despite the growing patient demand, skepticism remains within the medical community, particularly concerning the evidence base for these therapies.

HCN Medical Memo
The growing interest in integrative oncology presents both an opportunity and a challenge. Although the new guidelines offer a framework for incorporating these therapies into standard care, skepticism remains about the level of evidence supporting them. As the field matures, it will be crucial to engage in rigorous research to validate the efficacy of integrative therapies, especially as they become more widely adopted in cancer care settings.

Key Points:
  • Donald Abrams, MD, a leading integrative oncologist, will be the keynote speaker at the SIO conference.
  • New guidelines from SIO and ASCO formally recommend mindfulness-based interventions and other integrative therapies for managing anxiety and depression in adults with cancer.
  • Patient demand for integrative therapies is high, but skepticism remains, particularly concerning the level of evidence supporting these treatments.
  • Jun J. Mao, MD, chief of integrative medicine at Memorial Sloan Kettering, described the field as in “late adolescence,” noting that about half of US community hospitals offer some form of integrative therapy.

“Integrative oncology is more evidence-informed. If you’re going to tell people to eat more broccoli and blueberries, how much evidence are we able to generate from randomized, placebo-controlled trials?”
– Donald Adams, MD, Integrative Oncologist, Professor Emeritus of Medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF)

Additional Points:
  • Lack of access to integrative services in low-income and underrepresented areas remains a concern.
  • Many integrative therapies, such as massage or yoga, are not typically covered by insurance.
  • Dr. Abrams’ institution has recently expanded its integrative care team and offers group medical visits via telehealth or in person.

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