McMaster University

McMaster University

Faculty of
Health Sciences

Traditional Chinese and western medicine: Translating education and research into evidence-based cancer care globally

By Suzanne Morrison
Published: September 17, 2009
Raimond Wong and Andrea Baumann
From left: Dr. Raimond Wong, associate professor of oncology and medicine, and Dr. Andrea Baumann, associate vice-president, Faculty of Health Sciences, International Health

McMaster University is exploring the potential of collaborating with Chinese scientists with the goal of advancing the training of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) practitioners and integrating this ancient practice into Western medicine — specifically cancer care.

Initial discussions will get underway September 24-25 when McMaster officials meet in day-long workshops at McMaster with representatives from Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine (GUCM) and Hong Kong Polytechnic University (HKPO), institutions which are world leaders in TCM and information technology. To this new consortium, McMaster brings its expertise in problem-based learning (PBL) and evidence-based medicine and state-of-the-art cancer management strategies.

Dr. Raimond Wong, associate professor of oncology and medicine in McMaster University’s Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, and Dr. Andrea Baumann, associate vice-president, Faculty of Health Sciences International Health, will host the knowledge sharing workshop.

Chinese delegates include Professor Chen Zhiqiang, Vice Dean, Medical Institute, Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine, and Dr. Daniel Man-yuen Sze, associate professor, Department of Health, Technology and Informatics, Hong Kong Polytechnic University.

McMaster representatives from medicine, oncology, nursing and rehabilitation sciences have been invited to the workshop. "Traditional Chinese medicine can play an important role in the maintenance of human health and well-being," said Wong.

"Health professionals, scientists, academics, government and private sectors throughout the world are becoming increasingly interested in studying and developing traditional Chinese medicine and investigating ways that these traditional approaches can be integrated with Western medicine. There is governmental and professional readiness for this kind of approach to cancer care globally," he said.

Baumann said people suffer many symptoms as a result of a variety of cancer-related diseases and treatment. "It is important to test and explore all potential therapies that would alleviate suffering," she said. "Traditional Chinese medicine has been in North America for several years now.  These partnerships begin to frame evidence around common practices and give patients and families important alternatives in symptom control."

The knowledge sharing workshop is funded by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), a federal government corporation which supports partnerships between Canadian researchers and those working in developing countries. Its objective is to develop educational strategies and curriculum to 'modernize' TCM training and to integrate the two fields of medicine; identify the program and resources for related research; and develop innovative strategies to translate education and research into evidence-based cancer care globally.

In advancing integrative TCM anti-cancer research globally, the three institutions will collaborate in screening and authenticating TCM herbs for their anti-cancer care potential and conduct clinical studies on the application of herbs in cancer treatment and acupuncture in cancer management.

McMaster is affiliated with the Juravinski Cancer Centre (JCC), the first Canadian institute to advocate complementary and alternative medicine and TCM research using evidence-based approaches in cancer care. JCC has already established a research link with HKPU through which it is exploring TCM herbal use in cancer treatment.

In 2007, China announced an ambitious 15-year plan to bring TCM in line with modern standards with specific strategies, including conducting clinical research on the safety and efficacy of TCM remedies, encouraging international collaboration, improving manufacturing techniques and bringing the drug regulatory system into line with international guidelines.

In 2006, Ontario regulated TCM, the first new health profession to be regulated in the province since 1991 and the second province in Canada to do so, after British Columbia.

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