Last week, the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center issued a press releast touting its integrative oncology program. It’s a perfect example to demonstrate the formulaic nature of such press releases and the distortions behind them used to sell the “integration” of quackery into medicine.
Two prominent advocates of “integrative medicine” bemoan the “practice drift” they see in their specialty, in which doctors drift farther and farther away from their training. What this means is (although it would never be admitted) is that these “integrative medicine” doctors are drifting further and further into quackery. Too bad this is a feature, not a bug.
We know that alternative medicine use is associated with poorer survival in cancer, but what about the use of so-called “complementary medicine,” “complementary and alternative medicine,” or “integrative medicine”? Bad news. There’s still a negative correlation between the use of pseudoscientific and unproven medicine and cancer survival, even when used with conventional cancer therapy rather than instead of it.
In 2014, the Society for Integrative Oncology first published clinical guidelines for the care of breast cancer patients. Not surprisingly, SIO advocated “integrating” dubious therapies with oncology. Last week, the most influential oncology society, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO), endorsed a 2017 update to the SIO guidelines, thus endorsing the “integration” of quackery with oncology and paving the way for insurance coverage. The advance of quackademic medicine in oncology continues apace.
I’ve documented the infiltration of quackery into academic medicine through the “integration” of mystical and prescientific treatment modalities into medicine. Here, I look at a seemingly small incident, a veritable pebble in the quackademic avalanche. Is it too late for the pebbles to vote?