As a researcher, educator, and planner, I have worked in alternative and complementary (integrative) medicine and the psychosocial aspects of cancer care for more than 25 years. I came to Memorial Sloan Kettering in 1999 to create the Integrative Medicine Service, a multifaceted program that offers inpatient therapies at Memorial Hospital and outpatient services at the Bendheim Integrative Medicine Center. The Service’s two-pronged research effort includes studies to evaluate the ability of specific complementary therapies to reduce important symptoms associated with cancer and cancer treatments, and the investigation of botanicals for potential antitumor effects. The Integrative Medicine Service’s website, About Herbs, offers evidence-based information about herbs, vitamins, and unproved cancer treatments at no charge to professionals and the public.
When I first became interested in integrative medicine in the early 1980s, I was an Assistant Professor at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Director of the U of P Comprehensive Cancer Center Psychosocial Programs, where I developed prototypic clinical and research programs in patient and family support, medical education, home care and hospice, and the complementary therapies that now comprise integrative medicine. Little was known about the effects of complementary or alternative therapies, and through the first national survey of cancer patients’ use of unconventional methods and in later studies examining the clinical effects of these therapies, I documented the popularity and growth of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) methods. I found that cancer patients were using a wide array of therapies on their own, some ineffective and potentially harmful, others very helpful. My research, clinical activities, and policy efforts since that time have aimed to alert patients and oncology professionals to the sometimes useless or harmful therapies promoted incorrectly as viable cancer “treatments,” and to ensure that complementary therapies are studied with appropriate scientific rigor and are available to patients as adjunctive care for the control of physical and emotional symptoms.
I am also actively involved in integrative medicine on a national and international level. I am founding President of the International Society for Integrative Oncology and founding Editor-in-Chief of its journal, Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology. I was a founding member of the Advisory Council to the National Institutes of Health Office of Alternative Medicine, now the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM). After completing a term on the American Cancer Society (ACS) National Board of Directors, I am now on the ACS Eastern Division Board. I also am a member of the national ACS and many other federal, national, and international panels and committees.
At Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, I have been the principal investigator of several research studies funded by the National Institutes of Health and also head one of five NIH-supported Botanical Research Centers. Our Botanical Center investigates immune-modulating botanical supplements, their composition, mechanisms of action and clinical value.
I have published extensively on integrative medicine and complementary therapies, and have lectured on these topics internationally. I have 158 papers in the medical literature and 60 books and textbook chapters for physicians, patients, and families. A new edition of my Alternative Medicine Handbook is underway, and the second edition of our Herb-Drug Interactions in Oncology is now available.
- Clinical Expertise: Integrative Medicine
- Languages Spoken: English
- Education: PhD, University of Pennsylvania
Cassileth BR, Deng G, Vickers A, and Yeung, SK. Integrative Oncology: Complementary therapies in cancer care. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker; 2005.
Cassileth BR, and Lucarelli, CD. Herb-Drug Interactions in Oncology. Hamilton, ON: BC Decker; 2003.
Cassileth BR. Commentary on Price AM et al., The role of psychosocial factors in the development of breast carcinoma: Part I. Breast Diseases: A Year Book Quarterly 2001
Cassileth, BR. The Alternative Medicine Handbook: The complete guide to Alternative and Complementary Therapies. New York, NY: W. W. Norton; 1998.
Research is integral to our mission at Memorial Sloan Kettering, and clinical trials help us discover better forms of patient care and treatment. For you, this could mean access to a new therapy or therapy combination. Click to see a list of the trials I’m currently leading.