Cancer: complementary medicine tied to reduced survival

  • JAMA Oncol

  • curated by Yael Waknine
  • Clinical Essentials
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Takeaway

  • Patients receiving complementary medicine (CM) are less likely to accept additional components of conventional cancer therapy (CCT), placing them at 2-fold greater risk for death from curable disease.

Why this matters

  • CM is intended to be used in addition to, not in place of, CCT to improve QoL.
  • According to the authors, two-thirds of patients using CM believe that it will prolong their life, and one-third expect it to cure their disease.

Study design

  • Retrospective study of 258 CM users matched with 1032 nonusers from the National Cancer Database receiving ≥1 CCT for nonmetastatic breast, prostate, lung, or colorectal cancer during 2004-2013. 
  • Funding: None disclosed.

Key results

  • Time to CCT was similar in CM users/nonusers (P=.41).
  • CM users had higher refusal rates for surgery (7.0% vs 0.1%), chemotherapy (34.1% vs 3.2%), radiotherapy (53.0% vs 2.3%), and hormone therapy (33.7% vs 2.8%; P<.001 for all>
  • CM was associated with poorer 5-year OS (82.2% vs 86.6%; P=.001) and doubled risk for death in multivariate analysis (HR=2.08; 95% CI, 1.50-2.90).
  • CM was no longer linked to increased mortality after adjusting for treatment refusal/delay, supporting its effect via treatment refusal.

Limitations

  • Retrospective design.
  • Potential CM underreporting, absence of data on type/use.

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