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Acupuncture relieves cancer side effects, says Harvard professor

Acupuncture relieves cancer side effects, says Harvard professor

A researcher from a top US cancer hospital is to deliver a keynote speech in London highlighting the effectiveness of acupuncture for chronic pain in oncology patients.

Weidong Lu, principal investigator at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute (DFCI) in Boston, Massachusetts and Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School, will present at the 21st Acupuncture Research Resource Centre (ARRC) conference on 23 March 2019.

His talk will focus on ‘oncology acupuncture’, a new and emerging field of research, which helps with symptom management during a patient’s cancer journey from the active treatment phase to end-of-life care.

Dr Lu, who established the Oncology Acupuncture Specialty at the DFCI in 2000 and has since published more than 60 academic papers, said: ‘I will describe the practice model of Oncology Acupuncture at the DFCI, review evidence from randomised clinic trials (RCTs) and discuss future directions of oncology acupuncture research and practice in cancer care.’

Numerous RCTs and systematic reviews (SRs) on cancer-related pain have been published in recent years. An overview of 14 SRs between 2005 and 2017 found that acupuncture was similarly effective to analgesic drugs but that it gave extra benefit when used in addition to medication (Anshasi and Ahmed, 2018).

Secondary pain that arises as a result of conventional cancer treatment may also be an issue, in particular joint pain associated with aromatase inhibitor drugs in breast cancer survivors. Two systematic reviews in 2017 (Chen and Roberts), found conflicting evidence, one recommending acupuncture and one not, however the evidence for medications and for exercise was also poor. A new, larger and higher quality RCT has produced positive results for acupuncture, compared either to sham control or to a waiting list control (Hershman, 2018).

Acupuncture’s effectiveness is well established for chronic pain in primary and secondary care with musculoskeletal conditions and headaches (Vickers, 2018). There is also some promising evidence in respect of chemotherapy induced peripheral nerve pain but it is at a preliminary level (Oh and Kim, 2018).

Dr Lu will be joined at the ARRC event by president of the Italian Federation of Acupuncture Societies, Dr Carlo Maria Giovanardi.

Dr Giovanardi, a qualified surgeon and founding member of the Association of Medical Acupuncturists in Bologna, will present the preliminary data from his latest study which looks at acupuncture as an effective and safe treatment for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN).

He said: ‘Taxane-based CIPN is a frequent side effect, observed in 15-60 per cent of breast cancer patients. It can produce severe neurological deficits and neuropathic pain and it is a potential reason for interrupting or reducing the dose of chemotherapy. Specific and effective treatments are lacking.

‘Although our study was very small, the results show that acupuncture can significantly improve the subjective perception of pain and seems also to have an impact in reducing CIPN-related symptoms.’

He called for further studies to be carried out to confirm his results.

Now in its 21st year the ARRC Symposium is the UK’s premier acupuncture research annual event. Other speakers include:

  • Kajsa Landgren and Siiri Hedlund from Lund University in Sweden: Acupuncture in anxiety, depression and sleeping problems.
  • Nicola Robinson from London Southbank University: Stroke
  • Norma Rodgers from the Hewitt Fertility Centre at Liverpool Women’s Hospital: Acupuncture and IVF
  • Felicity Bishop from the University of Southampton: Non-specific mechanisms in orthodox and CAM management of low back pain
  • Cinzia Scorzon from the University of Westminster: Acupuncture v CBT for generalised anxiety disorder

Notes to editor

***Press passes are now available for the conference and interviews can be arranged with all the speakers.***

For further information, case studies, interviews or to arrange a press pass, please contact: Katie Osborne on 07990 922615 or email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

About the BAcC

The British Acupuncture Council (BAcC) has a membership of nearly 3,000 professionally qualified acupuncturists. It is the UK's largest professional body for the practice of acupuncture. BAcC members practise a traditional, holistic style of acupuncture diagnosis and treatment based on a system developed and refined over 2,000 years. To achieve BAcC membership, practitioners must first undertake extensive training in traditional acupuncture (minimum three years full-time or part-time equivalent), which includes physiology, anatomy and other biomedical sciences appropriate to the practice of acupuncture.

Traditional acupuncture

Traditional acupuncture as practised by members of the BAcC is based on Chinese medicine principles that have been developed, researched and refined for over 2,500 years. Traditional acupuncture is holistic, not focused on isolated symptoms. It regards pain and illness, whether physical or mental, to be a sign the whole body is out of balance. Western or medical acupuncture is a more recent development practised predominantly by doctors and physiotherapists, who use acupuncture techniques within their existing scope of practice on the basis of a western medical diagnosis. There is a growing body of evidence showing how effective acupuncture is in a range of conditions:

Why use a BAcC practitioner?

Only British Acupuncture Council members belong to a Professional Standards Authority accredited register, providing professional guarantees of safety, education and continuing development (professionalstandards.org.uk)

Look for the letters MBAcC after the name of your acupuncturist to ensure:

  • extensive training – minimum three years degree level – with relevant western medicine including anatomy and physiology
  • adherence to BAcC codes of safe practice and professional conduct
  • compliance with current health and safety legislation
  • full insurance cover for medical malpractice and public/products liability
  • mandatory continuing professional development to keep knowledge and skills up to date
  • postgraduate study of special interests such as pain management and acupuncture for children

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BAcC Factsheets

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Press Contact

Katie Osborne

Tel: 07990 922615