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October 2021

CMAJ. 1998 Apr; 158(7): 897-902.

Unconventional therapies for cancer: 1. Essiac. The Task Force on Alternative Therapies of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative.

Kaegi E.

National Cancer Institute of Canada, Toronto, Ont.

Physicians and patients have been frustrated by the lack of reliable information on unconventional therapies. To help fill this gap in the area of breast cancer therapy, the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative formed a task force to advise it on how best to promote research into unconventional therapies. As part of the work of the task force, a review of the available literature was carried out for each of the following products: Essiac, green tea, Iscador, hydrazine sulfate, vitamins A, C and E, and 714-X. The first article in this series on unconventional therapies for cancer describes the methodology used to obtain and evaluate the information and provides a summary of the findings on Essiac. Subsequent articles will cover the other products. For most of the products reviewed, there has been some indication of possible benefit but no definitive evidence. Innovative and collaborative research needed to meet the information needs of growing numbers of patients and their physicians is now being sponsored by the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative. Open communication between patients and physicians is also necessary for the maintenance of an appropriate therapeutic partnership and for the identification and control of side effects. The Ontario Division of the Canadian Cancer Society, a partner in the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative, supported the preparation of a patient-information piece on unconventional therapies to accompany the series. This item will assist patients who are considering such therapies and will promote open communication between patients and their physicians.

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