CAM Center Profile

Integrative Medicine Service, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York

The driving force behind the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York is Barrie R. Cassileth, PhD. Cassileth became interested in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) more than 25 years ago when she was an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and director of the university’s psychosocial programs. Cassileth found that cancer patients were using a variety of CAM therapies, some more useful than others. She began to focus much of her research on complementary therapies that would reduce symptoms and improve quality of life for cancer patients and family members.

She established the Integrative Medicine Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in 1999 to complement mainstream medical care and to address the emotional, social, and spiritual needs of patients and families. The Service has two main focus areas: individual patients and clinical research.

Programs for Individuals

Memorial Sloan-Kettering’s Integrative Medicine Service offers a variety of CAM services for individuals, including inpatient and outpatient care. Specifically, these services include:

  • Individual therapies. The Service offers touch, mind-body, and creative therapies; acupuncture; and nutrition and herbal counseling, consultation, and education.
  • Fitness, movement, and spiritual/energy classes. These classes can be taken in either a group or private setting. Current classes are: yoga; the Alexander Technique; Qi Gong; T’ai Chi; back in shape through movement, music, and motivation; lengthen and strengthen with Pilates Mat; chair aerobics; focus on healing; and strong bones. All therapies and classes are fee-for-service and payable by cash, check, or credit card.
  • Web-based information resources about herbs, botanicals and other products. This web site provides information for oncologists and health care professionals, including a clinical summary for each agent and details about constituents, adverse effects, interactions, and potential benefits or problems. Evaluations of alternative or unproved cancer therapies are also provided. The site is updated continually.
  • Workshops and educational programs. The Service offers programs for patients, caregivers, and professionals, including a range of written and consultation information about CAM, including herbs and other over-the-counter remedies, herb-drug interactions, and toxicities associated with unproved cancer therapies. In addition, the Service offers training programs for licensed massage therapists and for family members who want to learn how to provide safe and gentle massage to patients. It also offers visiting professorships and graduate student internships for health care professionals.

Research and Clinical Trials

The Integrative Medicine Service research program has two major components:

  • Quality of life studies. Current and proposed research includes studies of acupuncture for fatigue, shortness of breath, hot flashes, nausea, and pain. The program also includes a study on music therapy for reducing depression and anxiety in patients undergoing bone marrow transplant. A project studying music therapy in the recovery room is expected to begin soon. In addition, in conjunction with the Pain and Palliative Care Service, the Service is constructing a controlled trial on massage therapy for terminally ill patients.
  • Botanical therapies. The botanicals research program is studying several Asian herbs and combination products in preliminary laboratory trials. This research is expected to expand into clinical trials.

Both components of research are conducted in collaboration with senior laboratory and clinical scientists at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center and the Sloan-Kettering Institute. The Service has received 15 grants to study the benefits of various CAM therapies and to investigate botanicals that may have anti-tumor effects.

For more information about the Service or to arrange a site visit, call (212) 639-8629 or visit the web site at www.mskcc.org/integrativemedicine.