Learning

Message from the President

Oriental Medicine/Traditional Chinese Medicine (OM/TCM) approaches to cancer, particularly a herbalist’s interpretation of cancer pathologies, are suspect from an oncologist’s perspective due to a lack of scientific nous and a poor appreciation of Evidence Based Medicine (EBM). The use pattern discrimination (PD) as a basis for prescribing in cancer treatment and support, the poor understanding of the medical oncology (MO) protocols and a lack of scientific language in which to discuss patients’ treatment limit TCM/OM participation in the clinic. (This is not necessarily true for acupuncture, which is not seen to interfere with chemo/radiotherapies). The above is not a dismissal of traditional practices of pattern discrimination or diagnosis, but a recognition that they are not acceptable to the dominant paradigm of medical oncology. Also, PD is not always successful at diagnosing the underlying condition of a particular tumor. Clinically, many patients with Stage I or II tumors are actually quite healthy, which speaks to the fact that cancer is unlike the general assumptions of pathology as we understand them.

The AIOCM has in its basic charter, the need for lifting educational standards to a level, whereby OM/TCM practitioners can understand the language and procedures of MO, can do basic EBM research, and make contributions within a scientific framework. My experience in the West, is that many LAc are not comfortable in a medical environment and much of the criticism of our profession is due to our language, which is medieval. How does one translate to a medical oncologist the concept of treating ‘internal cold’ tumours with ‘yang invigorating’ or ‘hot herbs’? Or ‘Blood Stasis’ herbs to ‘bust’ up the tumor. How does one describe the action of a medical herb without understanding that herb’s pharmacology? How can we recommend a herb or formula without fully understanding its pharmacodynamics and its possible contraindications? MO is concerned that herbs will interfere with their chemo/radiotherapy treatments, and while there is good evidence that many herbs and isolates actually enhance MO treatment, we need to be able to present those studies. Oncologists are by and large conservative and are likely to dismiss complementary treatments, much to the suffering of the patient.

In the East it is different, as this is their traditional medicine and language, and there is extensive clinical cooperation between MDs and acupuncturists and herbalists. However, the young Chinese Post Doc students to which I lecture have all an extensive understanding of pharmacology, Western medicine and the basic scientific method. This does not appear to be true in Colleges in the US, Australia and the UK. Am I correct in this observation? Perhaps, you can send me information.
Again, this not a criticism of traditional approaches to the practice of OM/TCM, which may be readily applied to many acute and chronic diseases but a recognition that cancer and treatment of cancer falls into a decidedly different category than most pathological conditions. These cancer cells are the patient’s own cells, not something foreign and the tumor microenvironment is ‘walled off’ from the surrounding tissue and largely unaccessible.

Please communicate your thoughts on this subject, as I would love to hear. My hope and dream is that AIOCM involves this form of discussion and I am not critical of those that practice traditionally. I do see, however in my work how easy it is to be dismissed by oncologists as they have no way of appreciating what we do unless we can communicate in their language. It is their paradigm in which we operate.

Daniel Weber

Much of the education will be done online and will include:

  • Presentations 
  • Interviews 
  • Online seminars
  • Conferences

Line up of speakers and topics coming soon.