Welcome to BCCT
June 4, 2018
Welcome to BCCT—Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies.
This website began over lunch at a good vegetarian restaurant in New York City. My friend and colleague, Lucy Waletzky, MD, unexpectedly said to me: "Why don't we create a website that updates your book?" She was referring to my book Choices In Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Approaches to Cancer, published by MIT Press in 1994.
At the time I wrote Choices in Healing, integrative cancer therapies were still widely considered pure quackery. My mentors had told me I would likely destroy my career if I pursued my interest in them. Nonetheless, I persevered, trusting that my training in journalistic objectivity would save me from disaster. When Choices came out it received respectful reviews from the New England Journal of Medicine, Journal of the American Medical Association, and The New Scientist.
Here is one example of the response:
I think this is a remarkable book. It is quite free of bias, and takes serious looks at both advantages and disadvantages of conventional treatment, and the remarkable spectrum of other and non-traditional healing. He never says bullshit, even when others, especially physicians, might. This book is not for those who are completely satisfied with the outcomes, and with current treatment of patients with cancer. It covers many non-traditional forms of treatment, from weird diets to vitamins and immunotherapy, and suggests their addition to more conventional treatment, not as a substitute. It is rich in consideration of psychological elements in the course of cancer, and it is full of information for those who want to seek their own input into their own life, illness, feelings, and treatment.
Laurens P. White, MD, Clinical Professor of Medicine, University of California; Former President, California Medical Association
I received strong personal support from my mentor, Philip R. Lee, MD, former chancellor of the University of Califoirnia, San Francisco, and from the late Jimmie Holland, MD, the founder of the field of psycho-oncology at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in New York.
The book was also enthusiastically reviewed in a number of integrative medicine periodicals. It played a quite seminal role in the revolution in attitudes toward integrative cancer medicine. That revolution, of course, was taking place throughout medicine. Integrative cancer care was one important tributary to are far deeper stream of cultural movement in integrative medicine more broadly.
Today, almost a quarter of a century later, most major cancer centers have integrative cancer care centers. There is a respectable professional association, the Society for Integrative Oncology, with membership from the top of the field.
Nonetheless, the frontiers of integrative cancer care continue to race ahead of the new integrative cancer care "establishment." And that is what this BCCT website is about—helping people with cancer, those who care for them, and clinicians and researchers stay abreast of this dynamic and vital field of work.
There are many challenges. I'll list five.
First, the online universe of integrative cancer care websites includes government-run sites, sites offered by mainstream medical centers, and sites offered by proponents of these therapies. All can make real contributions. But in general, the government and cancer center sites are quite conservative and limited in their approach, and the proponents—who often offer products or services for sale, may be too uncritically enthusiastic. There are a few independent sites, but they struggle to stay updated and current. BCCT seeks, as I did in my book, to come right down the middle with as much objectivity as we can.
Second, the range of integrative therapies on offer ranges in the hundreds, perhaps thousands. We can't possibly be comprehensive. Each entry in our "Search Therapy Summaries" database typically takes our sterling research team ten days to create. We hope to find others who can volunteer to do draft write-ups for review. You can contact us if interested in helping. But this will remain a labor-intensive effort. So we have no choice but to curate the field. We've started with breast and prostate cancer therapies—although the therapies often apply to other cancers. Now we are moving out to include a range of widely utilized integrative therapies.
Third, none of the integrative cancer sites include what we call ONCAs—Off-label, Overlooked and Novel Cancer Approaches. These are therapies that originate in mainstream medicine and then are discovered to have potential anticancer benefits. Metformin, a diabetes drug, is an excellent example. The best clinicians we know help patients by integrating the best of conventional and integrative therapies along with the best of ONCA therapies. This is a very challenging thing to do.
Fourth, simply getting mainstream cancer therapies right can be profoundly challenging, and there are very few websites that do an adequate job on helping patients with this essential task. Knowing, for example, that reading pathology reports right is one of the weak links in cancer medicine is an excellent example. Deciding whether to have tumor samples tested before starting chemotherapy by one of the labs devoted to this is a controversial decision but many consider the tests of value. Deciding when to stop conventional therapies because the risks outweigh the benefits is a third example. Knowing that oncologists are paid to enroll their patients in clinical trials1 is a fourth example. We are deep believers in the benefits of the skillful use of conventional cancer therapies. But we approach them with the same objectivity that we approach integrative therapies and ONCAs.
Finally, there are three approaches to cancer that represent easier entry points to integrative care.
First, we review seven widely used practices of healing here. They help you to become a healthier person living with cancer, cost very little, and can change your life.
Second, we deeply understand the potential of the cancer experience to transform your life psychologically and spiritually—and all the challenges as well.
Thirdly, we are truly open minded about the efficacy of prayer, healing, and other approaches on the frontiers of our understanding. We don't shy away from topics like medical marijuana, the medical use of halucinogens, and other controversial subjects. We try to come right down the middle.
This is a patient-centered site. We don't take money from anyone other than contributors. We aren't beholden to the academic, medical, pharmaceutical, alternative medicine or any other interest group.
We're here for you. That's it. I've led week-long retreats for people with cancer like you for 33 years in the Commonweal Cancer Help Program.
This work is the heart of my life work. All of our team members are similarly dedicated.
We welcome your interest.
We hope you'll support us here.