This report comes from Ralph Moss, a member of the faculty and of

For several days, I participated in the annual CancerGuides conference, convened by James Gordon, MD, and the staff of the Center for Mind Body Medicine (CMBM) of Washington, DC. Dr. Gordon is Clinical Professor in the Departments of Psychiatry and Family Medicine at the Georgetown University School of Medicine. He also served as Chairman of the White House Commission on Complementary and Alternative Medicine Policy.

Over 100 participants came from all over the country to take part in this weeklong event (March 13-19, 2005). CancerGuides is a unique program that trains health professionals and what some call "expert patients" to assist people with cancer who are seeking to integrate CAM into their treatment plan. ("Expert patients" are laypeople who, by necessity, become educated to the level of professionals through struggle with their disease.)

Participating in this excellent and exciting meeting, which is held at the beautiful Claremont Resort and Spa in Berkeley, was like a homecoming for me. During the 1990s, I worked very closely with Dr. Gordon and his staff, first on the Alternative Medicine Program Advisory Council (AMPAC), of which he was the chair, and then on the Cancer Advisory Panel on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAP-CAM). I was also on the advisory board of the Comprehensive Cancer Care (CCC) meetings, a prior venture of the CMBM. It was therefore a great pleasure to be back in touch with these leaders in the field of integrating conventional and alternative medicine.

I lectured and also served on two "tumor board"-like panels that discussed particular cases. But I also sat in as a participant and learned a great deal from both the faculty and the many attendees. In addition to Prof. Gordon, these included, but were hardly limited to:

Timothy C. Birdsall, ND, vice president for integrative medicine at the Cancer Treatment Centers of America; Henry Dreher, MA, a well-known New York City author and CancerGuide; Joel M. Evans, MD, founder of the Center for Women's Health in Darien, CT, and professor at Albert Einstein College of Medicine; Debra L. Kaplan, LMSW, an integrative psychotherapist in Dallas, TX; Susan B. Lord, MD, director of nutrition programs at the Center for Mind-Body Medicine, Washington, DC; Stephen M. Sagar, MD, Associate Professor, Division of Radiation Oncology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario; Susan Sencer, MD, Director of Integrative Cancer Care, Minneapolis/St. Paul Children's Hospital and Clinics; Garrett Smith, MD, founder and medical direct of the Golden Gate Center for Integrative Cancer Care, San Francisco.

In addition, I had excellent and productive conversations with many of the participants, including Ann Fonfa, founder of the Annie Appleseed Project and website, and Barry Boyd, MD, a medical oncologist from Greenwich, CT, and lecturer at Yale University Medical School.

Lately, some writers have speculated that truly alternative medicine is dying, having itself become a victim of the success of milder complementary procedures. They believe that there is no room in the "new world order" for radical challenges to pharmacological medicine. However, my visit to California convinces me that alternative medicine is indeed alive and well. But, naturally, it is having to adapt to a changing political and economic environment.

The great humorist Mark Twain once said, "There is something fascinating about science. One gets such wholesale returns of conjecture out of such a trifling investment of fact." Let's face it: this has been true of many alternative treatments as well—long on conjecture, short on evidence. I am happy to report, however, that the new breed of CAM practitioners now realize that radical ideas are not enough. Those who want to change the system must provide rigorous proof of their concepts. Meetings such as CancerGuides provide an important testing ground for the thorough discussion and documentation of daring new ways of looking at cancer. I'm already looking forward to next year's meeting.

Source: Cancer Decision newsletters

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