Integrative cancer treatment may have a survival benefit in patients with lung cancer: A retrospective cohort study from an integrative cancer center in Korea

Medicine (Baltimore). 2019 Jun;98(26):e16048. doi: 10.1097/MD.0000000000016048.


Integrative oncology is being increasingly adopted in mainstream cancer care to strengthen anticancer effects and to control cancer-related symptoms.The objective of this study is to identify the characteristics of patients with lung cancer treated at an integrative cancer center in Korea and to determine the effects of integrative cancer treatment (ICT) on survival outcome in traditional Korean medicine (TKM).We reviewed medical records for lung cancer patients who visited a single integrative clinical setting, East-West Cancer Center, between January 2014 and December 2015. We classified the patients into groups according to their ICT and whether or not they underwent anticancer traditional Korean Medicine treatment with a multiherbal formula containing Panax notoginseng Radix, Cordyceps militaris, P ginseng C.A.Mey., and Boswellia carterii BIRDWOOD (HangAmDan-B), with a herbal formula containing Rhus verniciflua Stoke, or with cultivated wild ginseng pharmacopuncture. A descriptive analysis of the characteristics and a survival analysis using the Kaplan-Meier curves with log rank test and a Cox proportional hazard model were performed.A total of 91 patients were included, and the majority had advanced-stage cancer. Of those patients, 45.1% were in the mono-TKM group and 39.6% were integrative group. Patients with advanced stage had significantly higher mortality than patients with early stage (crude hazard ratio [HR]: 4.41, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.56-12.5; adjusted HR: 6.31, 95% CI: 1.24-32.1). In the unadjusted model, for patients in the integrative group, the mortality rate was reduced by 50% compared to mono-TKM group with statistical significance. After adjusting confounders, the mortality rate of integrative group was reduced by 6% compared to mono-TKM group, suggesting positive effect on survival probability of integrative group.The results suggest that integration of TKM and conventional cancer treatment may have survival benefits in patients with lung cancer. Even though this study has limitations including heterogeneity between treatment groups, the study results suggest that ICT has positive effect on survival probability. To clarify the impacts of ICT for lung cancer and other cancers on survival outcome, further prospective study with a rigorous study design is required in multiclinical setting.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Complementary Therapies
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Integrative Medicine
  • Kaplan-Meier Estimate
  • Lung Neoplasms / mortality*
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Republic of Korea
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome