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Please clarify what Dr. Block meant in his blog when he referenced aspects of Chinese Medicine that had not been researched beyond laboratories. Based upon rigorous studies, MD Anderson, a leading center for cancer research and treatment, trains acupuncturists to treat patients with cancer. MDA recommends acupuncture for many conditions, including boosting the immune system as well as treating pain, uncontrolled nausea or vomiting, side effects from treatment or medications, and failed symptom control by conventional treatment. Physicians are also encouraged to consider acupuncture for a number of other conditions related to cancer treatment or cancer, e.g., chemo-related peripheral neuropathy. A recent study by MDA found that qigong improves overall quality of life during breast radiotherapy.

We agree, Janet, there’s been substantial progress with research on acupuncture. Some of the conditions mentioned are ones in which the clinical trial data have been very encouraging. We would suggest, for example, that patients having pain should consider acupuncture. It is specifically in the area of Chinese herbal medicine, though, that Dr. Block feels that much of the most meaningful research is still being conducted in the laboratory, rather than the clinic. Though there has been a strong effort to research Chinese herbal medicine in the clinic; many of the trials that have been done in this area are less convincing in design than acupuncture trials. This makes it more difficult to offer patients evidence-based information. However, this doesn't mean that Chinese herbs don't work; in fact, we think that many Chinese herbal formulas are likely to be extremely effective. They just don't have a fully adequate base in scientific evidence yet. Areas in particular need of research are quality control, herb-drug interactions and preclinical studies of mechanisms of action. We are pleased to note that China is now investing heavily in herbal medicine research, and we hope to see a more secure scientific evidence base for this area in the future.

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