Integrative cancer treatment improves survival times in metastatic breast cancer

Integrative cancer treatment is of substantial interest to many cancer patients, and particularly, it seems, to women with breast cancer, judging by the correspondence in to CANCERactive. An interesting study entitled “Survival Impact of Integrative Cancer Care in Advanced Metastatic Breast Cancer” and authored by Keith I. Block, MD, Charlotte Gyllenhaal, PhD, Debu Tripathy, MD, and others from the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment, Evaston, Illinois, and the Universities of Illinois, New Orleans and Chicago shows that women with metastatic breast cancer using Complementary and Integrative Therapies doubled their survival times.

The research report states  “We report survival data for a consecutive case series of advanced metastatic breast cancer patients who received a comprehensive clinical program combining conventional treatments with nutrition and supplementation, fitness and mind-spirit instruction at the Block Center for Integrative Cancer Treatment. Ninety consecutive patients with metastatic breast cancer diagnosed during 1984–1997 who received chemotherapy at the integrative cancer center were included. Prognostic factors, treatments and survival from onset of metastases were determined from analysis of scans, labs, pathology and medical records. The log-rank test and Cox proportional hazards analyses were used, and a Kaplan–Meier curve was calculated. All patients had metastatic disease at baseline, 96% were relapsed and 52% had received prior chemotherapy for metastatic disease. Median age at onset of metastasis was 46 years. 

Importantly, median survival was 38 months (95% CI 27,48). Published literature on populations with somewhat more favorable prognostic factors treated in conventional clinics showed median survivals of 20 to 23 months. Through the 1990s, median survival reported in metastatic breast cancer trials or observations generally ranged from 12 to 24 months. Five-year survival was 27% for Center versus 17% for comparison patients. Despite a higher proportion of younger and relapsed patients, survival of metastatic breast cancer patients at the Center was approximately double that of comparison populations and possibly even higher compared to trials published during this period. Explanations for the advantage relative to conventional treatment alone may include the nutritional, nutraceutical, exercise and psychosocial interventions, individually or in combination; self-selection of patients cannot be ruled out.

It was also noted that despite orthodox therapeutic advances in recent years, the effectiveness of conventional treatment for metastatic breast cancer (MBC) is limited. A review of 189 randomized trials of chemotherapeutic and hormonal treatments for MBC published between 1975 and 1996 found only minimal survival differences among treatments: the most marked difference, found in comparisons of polychemotherapy versus monotherapy, yielded an absolute differential of only 3% 3 years after treatment. Through the 1990s, median survival in MBC ranged from 12 to 24 months; later trials of taxane-based therapies generally reported overall survivals of 18–26 months, with further improvements noted with the advent of HER2-targeted antibody therapy. Nevertheless, these therapies introduce side effects and improve median survival by only a few months.

Breast cancer patients use complementary and alternative therapies in higher numbers than the population at large. The Block Center selectively integrates conventional cancer therapies with individualized nutritional biotherapy, nutraceutical support, fitness and physical care programs, and mind-spirit strategies.” 

Full report:

Nov - Dec 2013 Cancer Watch
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