How useful are unconventional cancer treatments?

Eur J Cancer. 1999 Oct;35(11):1608-13. doi: 10.1016/s0959-8049(99)00198-7.


Unconventional cancer treatments are used frequently. Therefore, oncologists need to know about them. This article gives an overview of current knowledge on the most prevalent complementary or alternative cancer therapies. A distinction is made between alleged cures, preventive and adjunctive measures. Shark cartilage, mistletoe, thymus therapy, essiac, hydrazine sulphate, 714-X, dietary regimens, green tea and Panax ginseng are all covered specifically. None of these treatments offer reasonable hope for a cure. Some strategies are promising in terms of cancer prevention. The true potential of unconventional therapies might lie in adjunctive and palliative care. It is concluded that good evidence in this area is scarce. Vis-à-vis the high prevalence of unconventional cancer treatments, rigorous investigations are mandatory, not least for increasing the safety of future patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Complementary Therapies*
  • Humans
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Neoplasms / prevention & control
  • Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Palliative Care