An important piece about an extraordinary program newly initiated at Commonweal in Northern California
To inform choice in integrative cancer care
The purpose of Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies (BCCT) is to help you —a motivated person with cancer —explore the best integrative approaches to cancer diagnosis and treatment that go beyond conventional cancer care. We write for family members, friends, clinicians, researchers, and cancer advocates as well. But you, the motivated person with cancer, is our principal concern.
We focus on what is scientifically known, or at least scientifically informed. Physicians often restrict their recommendations to what is scientifically known. You may feel you cannot wait for certainty.
If standard therapies offer no cure or no strong prospect of extended survival, you face the double challenge of deciding among investigational therapies in mainstream medicine and the therapies in integrative, complementary or alternative cancer care.
The ultimate goal of BCCT is to contribute to evidence-based integrative cancer care. The immediate goal is to help you search for what might help beyond conventional therapies and mainstream investigational therapies.
We are not selling anything. We do not recommend or endorse therapies or practitioners. We are not promoting anything except informed choice — something we believe every person with cancer should have.
We review a wide range of integrative and complementary therapies. We report on what is known about benefits, risks, side effects and anything else that we believe will help you make choices that fit your lifestyle, disease, philosophy, finances, and especially your sense of what is right for you.
Some websites devoted to complementary and alternative (CAM) cancer therapies — especially governmental, medical and academic websites — are very cautious about these therapies. Other websites created by proponents of these therapies are typically enthusiastic. We come right down the middle. We believe you need the most balanced approach possible — neither too cautious nor too enthusiastic.
We hope to help you make informed decisions, either on your own or, preferably, with your trusted healthcare team.
BCCT is a curated website, not a comprehensive one. BCCT has not conducted a comprehensive field review. We have curated what we and our advisors regard as the most interesting and promising integrative cancer therapies. We explore how the best complementary therapies and overlooked and novel cancer approaches (ONCA) combine with the best conventional and conventional-investigational therapies.
A Note from Michael Lerner
When my father developed cancer in 1980, I started looking for ways to help him. I was already interested in integrative medicine. I spent several years exploring integrative cancer therapies. At that time they were considered quack medicine. My mentors warned me that I could destroy my reputation.
Staring in 1983, I traveled extensively in the U.S., Europe, Mexico and Japan exploring integrative cancer therapies. At the same time, I became a student of yoga. My friend Dean Ornish had recently shown that a yoga-based program could reverse coronary artery disease. We began to hold yoga-based retreats at Commonweal, first for people with systemic lupus disease and then for the elderly. Then I met Rachel Naomi Remen, MD. Together we envisioned offering retreats for people with cancer. The first Commonweal Cancer Help Program took place in October 1985. Over the past 33 years we have held over 200 week-long Cancer Help Programs.
In 1993, Bill Moyers and film-maker David Grubin released a PBS series, “Healing and the Mind.” The last segment of the five-part series was a film of the Cancer Help Program called “Wounded Healers.” Moyers also interviewed Rachel Remen and me for his book by the same name. The series won awards and was shown repeatedly on PBS stations across the country.
In 2008, David Servan Schreiber’s book Anti-Cancer was released in the U.S. He also spoke of his experience in the Cancer Help Program. His book was widely read. Rachel Remen’s books Kitchen Table Wisdom and My Grandfather’s Blessings were also widely read, as was my book Choices in Healing: Integrating the Best of Conventional and Complementary Cancer Therapies.
We hold only six week-long retreats each year, each for eight participants. By word of mouth and because of these books and other articles and talks and conversations, word spread. We never advertised the Cancer Help Program.
Shortly after Moyers released “Healing and the Mind,” a number of other centers emerged in the U.S., Canada and France based on the Cancer Help Program. While some of these programs ultimately came to an end, a few continued. Callanish in Vancouver, British Columbia, was founded by Janie Brown. Harmony Hill in Union, Washington, was founded by Gretchen Schodde. Smith Center for Healing and the Arts was founded by Barbara Smith Coleman and me.
At Commonweal, a whole cluster of programs have developed inspired by or aligned with the Cancer Help Program:
- Healing Circles Langley
- Healing Circles Houston
- Cancer Help Program Alumni Circle
- Bay Area Young Survivors and the Mets in the City retreats
- Healing Kitchens Institute
- Healing Yoga Foundation
- The New School at Commonweal (which contains dozens of podcasts and videos related to cancer and healing)
- The Natura Institute
- The Foundation for Embodied Medicine
And now, Beyond Conventional Cancer Therapies joins this cluster.