The Regional Cancer Centre (RCC) here has embarked on a series of clinical studies to explore the potential of integrating the Ayurveda system of medicine into modern cancer care, so that the synergy of the rejuvenating and restorative properties of this ancient science can give added benefits to cancer patients.
“Ayurveda may not have a big role in the main treatment modalities for cancer. But it has a vital and complementary role to play in the rejuvenation and palliation of cancer patients after treatment. Many drugs in the classic Ayurveda texts have proven anti-inflammatory properties that should be explored for the common good of cancer patients,” says K. Ramdas, the Medical Superintendent of RCC, who is also the head of the Head and Neck cancer division.
The Head and Neck cancer division has been engaged in Ayurveda research projects for the past 13 years. One of its focus areas has been the study of the potential of various plant-based molecules in reducing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation and utilising modern research methodology to scientifically validate this.
Many herbal components have been found to be more effective in its natural forms than as an isolated molecule in managing the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation. Some of these phyto components have been found to give excellent results in improving issues of persistent immuno suppression in some patients with head and neck cancers even after they are cured of the disease, Dr. Ramdas says.
For the first time, the RCC has been allocated a fund of Rs.37 lakh by the State government for taking up Ayurveda cancer research projects and discussions are on about putting together a dedicated team to work on this.
“Very often, cancer patients become bedridden and broken in spirit because of the severe side effects of chemotherapy and radiation, such as vomiting, giddiness, painful ulceration, poor appetite, and gastric problems. Ayurveda has a lot of medicines that can reduce inflammation and pain, improve the appetite so that the patients get a sense of wellbeing,” says P. Sankarankutty, the former Director of Ayurveda Medical Education.
Dr. Ramdas says that many patients themselves ask the doctors if they can go for Ayurveda, yoga, or meditation therapies after they complete their chemo or radiation treatment. With most of them reporting good results, there is no need for modern medicine to turn its face away from Ayurveda, he says. “Rasayana chikitsa or immunotherapy is a very crucial element of Ayurvedic management of cancer as it revives the body’s support systems. Rasayana therapy, when started ahead for a cancer patient, can help him/her tolerate radiation and chemotherapy better and can mitigate the toxic side effects. These are all time-tested truths of Ayurveda. Only, we cannot offer proof on the platform of modern medicine,” Dr. Sankarankutty says.
“What is important is that we scientifically validate the Ayurveda claims by checking the blood parameters of patients and by doing cell line studies. We also have validated a questionnaire to measure the quality of life. Changes at the molecular level cannot be studied by Ayurveda alone,” Dr. Ramdas said.