Efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer treatment

University of Exeter, Exeter, England, United Kingdom
European Journal of Cancer (Impact Factor: 5.42). 03/2006; 42(3):282-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.ejca.2005.09.025
Source: PubMed


Many cancer patients use homeopathic approaches to increase their body's ability to fight cancer, improve their physical and emotional well-being, and alleviate their pain resulting from the disease or conventional treatments. Homeopathy is highly controversial as there is no plausible mode of action for these highly diluted remedies. The aim of this systematic review is to summarize and critically evaluate the efficacy of homeopathic remedies used as a sole or additional therapy in cancer care. We have searched the literature using the databases: Amed (from 1985); CINHAL (from 1982); EMBASE (from 1974); Medline (from 1951); and CAMbase (from 1998). Randomised and non-randomised controlled clinical trials including patients with cancer or past experience of cancer receiving single or combined homeopathic interventions were included. The methodological quality of the trials was assessed by Jadad score. Six studies met our inclusion criteria (five were randomised clinical trials and one was a non-randomised study); but the methodological quality was variable including some high standard studies. Our analysis of published literature on homeopathy found insufficient evidence to support clinical efficacy of homeopathic therapy in cancer care.

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Available from: Stefania Milazzo
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    • "All fields of practice may be efficacious in some situations, may have no benefit in other situations, and in others may actually be harmful. Bone marrow transplantation may be beneficial for acute leukaemia (Martino et al. 2013) but may be harmful or unproven in breast cancer (Berry et al. 2011), while homeopathy may be beneficial for muscular pain or fibrositis (Fisher et al. 1989) but may have no role in the treatment of cancer (Milazzo, Russell, and Ernst 2006). In each case, what would compromise the ethics of the discipline or the field of practice would be claims of efficacy for the entire field of practice, i.e. " bone marrow transplant works " or " homeopathy works, " or claims of efficacy in situations where there is no evidence to support them, i.e. " bone marrow transplant works for breast cancer " or " homeopathy works for colorectal cancer. "
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    ABSTRACT: Recent discourses about the legitimacy of homeopathy have focused on its scientific plausibility, mechanism of action, and evidence base. These, frequently, conclude not only that homeopathy is scientifically baseless, but that it is "unethical." They have also diminished patients' perspectives, values, and preferences. We contend that these critics confuse epistemic questions with questions of ethics, misconstrue the moral status of homeopaths, and have an impoverished idea of ethics-one that fails to account either for the moral worth of care and of relationships or for the perspectives, values, and preferences of patients. Utilitarian critics, in particular, endeavour to present an objective evaluation-a type of moral calculus-quantifying the utilities and disutilities of homeopathy as a justification for the exclusion of homeopathy from research and health care. But these critiques are built upon a narrow formulation of evidence and care and a diminished episteme that excludes the values and preferences of researchers, homeopaths, and patients engaged in the practice of homeopathy. We suggest that homeopathy is ethical as it fulfils the needs and expectations of many patients; may be practiced safely and prudentially; values care and the virtues of the therapeutic relationship; and provides important benefits for patients.
    Full-text · Article · Jul 2014 · Journal of Bioethical Inquiry
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    • "Among the 27 systematic reviews we summarized, 18 systematic reviews [19–21, 23, 25, 27, 28, 31–34, 36, 37, 39, 40, 45, 46, 48] have small sample size, there were high heterogeneity in eight systematic reviews [19, 29, 31, 36, 39, 43, 46, 47], the risks of bias of 22 systematic reviews [19–21, 23–25, 27–29, 32, 34, 36–38, 40, 42–48] were high, and two systematic reviews [26, 30] included observational studies. So based on GRADE approach, the evidence levels for music, reflexology, lycopene, qigong, cupping, cannabis, Reiki, TENS, Chinese herbal medicine, homeopathy (Traumeel), creative arts therapies, and Viscum album L were low. "
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    ABSTRACT: Background and Objective. Now with more and more published systematic reviews of Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM) on adult cancer pain, it is necessary to use the methods of overview of systematic review to summarize available evidence, appraise the evidence level, and give suggestions to future research and practice. Methods. A comprehensive search (the Cochrane Library, PubMed, Embase, and ISI Web of Knowledge) was conducted to identify all systematic reviews or meta-analyses of CAM on adult cancer pain. And the evidence levels were evaluated using GRADE approach. Results. 27 systematic reviews were included. Based on available evidence, we could find that psychoeducational interventions, music interventions, acupuncture plus drug therapy, Chinese herbal medicine plus cancer therapy, compound kushen injection, reflexology, lycopene, TENS, qigong, cupping, cannabis, Reiki, homeopathy (Traumeel), and creative arts therapies might have beneficial effects on adult cancer pain. No benefits were found for acupuncture (versus drug therapy or shame acupuncture), and the results were inconsistent for massage therapy, transcutaneous electric nerve stimulation (TENS), and Viscum album L plus cancer treatment. However, the evidence levels for these interventions were low or moderate due to high risk of bias and/or small sample size of primary studies. Conclusion. CAM may be beneficial for alleviating cancer pain, but the evidence levels were found to be low or moderate. Future large and rigor randomized controlled studies are needed to confirm the benefits of CAM on adult cancer pain.
    Full-text · Article · Apr 2014 · Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine
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    • "A Cochrane Review of homeopathic medicines for adverse effects of cancer treatments found eight randomised controlled studies with mixed results [8]. A second systematic review concluded that the "evidence is encouraging but not convincing" [9]. The effects of homeopathy on quality of life in cancer patients has been studied very rarely. "
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    ABSTRACT: Many cancer patients seek homeopathy as a complementary therapy. It has rarely been studied systematically, whether homeopathic care is of benefit for cancer patients. We conducted a prospective observational study with cancer patients in two differently treated cohorts: one cohort with patients under complementary homeopathic treatment (HG; n = 259), and one cohort with conventionally treated cancer patients (CG; n = 380). For a direct comparison, matched pairs with patients of the same tumour entity and comparable prognosis were to be formed. Main outcome parameter: change of quality of life (FACT-G, FACIT-Sp) after 3 months. Secondary outcome parameters: change of quality of life (FACT-G, FACIT-Sp) after a year, as well as impairment by fatigue (MFI) and by anxiety and depression (HADS). HG: FACT-G, or FACIT-Sp, respectively improved statistically significantly in the first three months, from 75.6 (SD 14.6) to 81.1 (SD 16.9), or from 32.1 (SD 8.2) to 34.9 (SD 8.32), respectively. After 12 months, a further increase to 84.1 (SD 15.5) or 35.2 (SD 8.6) was found. Fatigue (MFI) decreased; anxiety and depression (HADS) did not change. CG: FACT-G remained constant in the first three months: 75.3 (SD 17.3) at t0, and 76.6 (SD 16.6) at t1. After 12 months, there was a slight increase to 78.9 (SD 18.1). FACIT-Sp scores improved significantly from t0 (31.0 - SD 8.9) to t1 (32.1 - SD 8.9) and declined again after a year (31.6 - SD 9.4). For fatigue, anxiety, and depression, no relevant changes were found. 120 patients of HG and 206 patients of CG met our criteria for matched-pairs selection. Due to large differences between the two patient populations, however, only 11 matched pairs could be formed. This is not sufficient for a comparative study. In our prospective study, we observed an improvement of quality of life as well as a tendency of fatigue symptoms to decrease in cancer patients under complementary homeopathic treatment. It would take considerably larger samples to find matched pairs suitable for comparison in order to establish a definite causal relation between these effects and homeopathic treatment.
    Full-text · Article · Jan 2011 · BMC Cancer
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