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Complementary therapy research

Learn more about research into complementary therapies and cancer care in the UK and internationally.

Complementary therapy research in the UK

There are many studies going on in universities, cancer centres and units around the UK, as well as the ones we mention here. Many studies might be quite small. But bringing all their results together will help define the role of complementary therapies in cancer care.

Herbal medicines and supplements for cancer

There is research into:

  • the types of herbal medicines and dietary supplements people with cancer use
  • the potential risks and benefits
  • whether the therapies react with cancer drug treatments

Acupuncture for a dry mouth

The ARIX trial is looking at whether acupuncture makes people produce more saliva and if this helps them feel better. It is for people who have a dry mouth due to radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.

Complementary therapies and survival

Breast cancer survival rates vary from country to country and researchers think this may be due to differences in diet and lifestyle.

The DietCompLyf study looked at 3,000 women with breast cancer. The first phase of the study found that women often changed their diet after a diagnosis of breast cancer. 

The researchers also looked at the women's intake of phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens are a group of chemicals found in plants. They are similar in structure to the hormone oestrogen.

The researchers found that the level of phytoestrogens in their diet didn't affect the factors that are linked to how well women are likely to do after treatment (the prognosis).

The researchers continue to follow up the women in this study to see if diet, particularly phytoestrogens, affect prognosis. 

Mindfulness based stress reduction (MBSR)

There are studies into mindfulness based stress reduction for people with cancer. The researchers are looking to see if it can help reduce:

  • depression
  • anxiety
  • tiredness (fatigue)

Reflexology for arm swelling after breast cancer

Reflexology is applying pressure and massage to your feet or hands.

A small study of 26 women found that reflexology was helpful in managing swelling of the arm (lymphoedema) after treatment for breast cancer. Reflexology helped reduce swelling and pain in the affected arm and helped to improve quality of life. Larger studies are now needed.

You can find out more about research into specific types of complementary and alternative therapies in our section on individual therapies.

More information about research in the UK

The Palliative and Supportive Care Clinical Studies Development Group was set up by the National Cancer Research Institute. It encourages and oversees research into complementary therapies in the UK.

You can find details of complementary therapy trials that are open and recruiting people on the UK Clinical Trials Gateway website.

Or, look for details of complementary therapy trials in the UK on our clinical trials database.

International research

In the USA, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) has a database of complementary and alternative therapy clinical trials.

Also in the USA, the Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) has information about recent trials.

Information and help

Dangoor sponsorship

About Cancer generously supported by Dangoor Education since 2010.