From the JASA Journal
What was your motivation to start researching herbal formulas for cancer?
My answer is pretty simple. My vision and motivation in practising Chinese medicine is to do whatever I can to relieve suffering. On this, I can say by accident, almost
more than 25 years ago in 1995, while in China visiting oncology clinics, I was inspired by our ability to help cancer patients and, at the same time, address everybody’s fear about treating cancer.
I realized, on one hand, there is a great opportunity and on the other hand, there is a great need to change something in our profession. When I started practicing in the ‘80s, I
was told that Chinese medicine can treat everybody, but cancer was excluded. I was therefore surprised that in China, not only was it included, but they had remarkable
results with cases, while we have less good results in the West. I was impressed at the results I was seeing from China and by the quality of life that patients had there
compared to what I was seeing at the hospital that I was working in.
At that time, I was the head of the integrative medicine unit in my hospital and therefore allowed all the departments to treat patients with acupuncture and complementary medicine. All except oncology. And when I asked why, they said because “your medicine is not evidence-based.” So this was like the great resistance—at
least a great excuse for resistance—that I’ve seen in any department. It was a challenge to me—I felt like life was kind of putting me on the spot or navigating me to this
Protectival (LCS101) is the most researched TCM formula in cancer care. What brought you to invest 15 years in this research?
I realized that herbal medicine is where I was having consistent results in my clinic. Acupuncture was becoming accepted at this time, but herbal medicine was totally outcast. So what I did is the opposite to what we see in western medical research. In the normal order of medical research, you find the molecule, you try it on cells,
animals, slowly building up to humans until you create a viable medicine.
I did what we’re all doing in the clinic—I saw results and I said, “If we have results, we can prove it; we can create an evidence base.” And I realized that I had to research
one formula and follow the western logic of human research, but I did it in the reverse order. I started with clinical results, moved to double-blind randomized human
research, and then to cases by following up with patients, animal studies, cell studies, and mechanisms.
What were the main findings of the research?
There are three features that we found in our research. One is that the formula not only kills cancer cells but kills them selectively. It kills cancer cells without affecting normal cells. And the second thing is about the protection of healthy cells. When we put chemotherapy on cancer cells and normal cells together, it kills both of them. When we added the LCS101 (Protectival), it selectively protects the normal cells and kills the cancer cells. And I can say lastly that one of the concerns of oncology was the fear of potential interactions, so we did a lot of research combining the formula with different chemotherapies and different cells. We repeatedly saw that there is no negative interaction, and, in fact, there is an additive effect when you use both of them.
I personally pray that the medicine of the future will combine chemotherapy (western medicine) with herbal medicine and acupuncture because I think the mutual effect will prove itself with research that shows better results and fewer side effects. This is actually what we are seeing today from a lot of acupuncture research as well. We are creating a much better quality of life for patients.
You have conducted research in Israel, in Europe, and in the U.S. What is the difference in the challenges between the different continents and countries?
The medical system in Israel is very open. We have Chinese medicine well-embedded within the medical system and in the hospitals. There is a lot of openness and curiosity for Chinese medicine in Israel so there was interest here. Once I finished research in one place, other places were more open. In America, we collaborated with top researchers from MD Anderson, and Miami Children’s Hospital, and we even got collaboration for writing our conclusive evidence with Professor David Rossinthall from Harvard Medical School.
So in America, once you show evidence, you can find collaboration. If you’re coming with no evidence, you have no chance. I think that’s the basic difference that I see. In Israel, even if you come with a story, there is still an openness. But in the States you need evidence to find openness. I also take inspiration from the SIO, the Society of Integrative Oncology, of which I am a member. I see how it’s been developing over the last few years, with collaboration by the major hospitals that have integrative oncology centers. I can see that America is taking the lead on the integrative part.
America is extremely dominant in acupuncture research, and I hope and believe that we will see more herbal medicine research, although as I mentioned, the challenges in America are greater. The opportunities and the good researchers are there, so I hope we will see more collaboration. I personally am open to helping any researcher who wants to do research in herbal medicine and oncology, to share my own path and its difficulties and how to overcome them.
You have been nominated recently as the President of the European TCM Association and you are also deeply involved with the U.S. TCM community. What are the differences between the two communities and what can they learn from each other?
One of my aims is to create a better unity of Chinese medicine, especially in the western world. Since I have studied in Europe, in the States, and in China, and since I’m a TCM certified practitioner, I understand the systems and I know the leaders in these countries.
One of my biggest goals is to create better communication and exchange between Europe and America. I think Europe can learn a lot from America and vice versa. There’s a great diversity of laws in Europe compared to what has been created in the States. One of my dreams is that in eastern medicine, we will have a foundational education that is recognized worldwide, so we can easily cross borders and become an international community and not so much a national community.
Yair Maimon, DOM, PhD, AC is the clinical director of Refout Integrative Medical Center, Tel Aviv, Israel. He is also president of the International Congress of Chinese Medicine in Israel (ICCM) and president of the European TCM Association. With over 30 years of clinical, academic, and research experience in the field of integrative and Chinese medicine, Dr. Maimon combines scientific research with inspiration from a deep understanding of Chinese medicine. As head of R&D at LifeBiotic Medical esearch, Ltd., his outstanding and innovating reassert has led to intranational patents in herbal medicine in cancer care.
Eric Raymond Buckley, DOM, LAc is a staff member of Christus St. Vincent Regional Medical Center’s Department of Integrative Medicine and Palliative Care, Santa Fe, New Mexico. He is a certified Oncology Acupuncture Specialist and has been a dedicated political advocate for the acupuncture profession for over 10 years.
First Published by JASA: The Journal of the American Society of Acupuncturists | FALL 2020. Republished with permission.
Dr Maimon is head of our Oncology Acupuncture Program. And Eric Raymond Buckley, DOM, is now a teacher in the program.
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