Alternative and dietary therapies for pediatric cancer

Sutart Siegel, MD Director, Children's Center for Cancer & Blood Disease, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, discusses his approach towards the use of alternative or dietary therapies for pediatric cancer
Alternative And Dietary Therapies For Pediatric Cancer
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Alternative and dietary therapies for pediatric cancer

The area of alternative or dietary therapies for cancer and pediatric cancer specifically, is obviously a very controversial one. For me, as a physician, to recommend a treatment to a patient, I need to know there is good evidence that in patients who we know for sure have cancer, or particular kind of cancer. That means they had the right diagnostic studies. And, we know they have that cancer. And, we can measure it. We can actually measure what happens to that cancer. I need to know that they got what whatever this treatment was, and that it clearly reduced or had a positive effect on that cancer. And, that there was nothing else they were getting that could be doing that instead. And, that's the kind of standard that we apply to looking at the alternative therapies. And, preferentially, that we even have studies where some patients got it and some patients didn't. And, the ones who got this alternative or dietary therapy did better. If you look at very carefully, unfortunately, at the mass of information out there, that parents get besieged with about alternative therapies, you will very, very, very rarely find those kind of criteria met. And, that means, we can't tell whether if it's of any benefit. It's someones idea and they made some anecdotal observation. But, they haven't been rigorous. They haven't made sure those patients have a kind of cancer they're talking about. Or you can't measure whether it's shrinking or not. You may see them have side effects that get better. That might not have to do anything with the medication, okay. That they haven't really measured this properly in enough patients to be sure that they're dealing with something that works. So, I talk to the families about those criteria. I look up every single alternative therapy they provide to me, if I don't know about them, to make sure that there isn't such evidence. So, I take it seriously. I look it up. I try to find out about it. And, I come back and tell them what I've found out about it, so that they know that I've looked in it. And it's important. Because, occasionally maybe I'll find something that'll be exciting. As far as dietary therapy goes, actually I don't know of any really strong evidence of any specific diet any positive effect on shrinking a cancer. There is no question that one has to stay in a state of good nutrition, during the course of therapy. Because, if you get malnourished, you are more susceptible to infections, to side effects of the drug, etcetera. So, good nutrition is important. But, that's different than a dietary therapy causing the cancer to be killed. I know of none like that. So, that's the approach I take to families who bring this up.

Sutart Siegel, MD Director, Children's Center for Cancer & Blood Disease, Children's Hospital Los Angeles, discusses his approach towards the use of alternative or dietary therapies for pediatric cancer


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Stuart E. Siegel, MD

Director, Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases, Children's Hospital Los Angeles

Before recently shifting his focus to international medicine, Stuart Siegel, MD, was Chief of the Division of Hematology/Oncology for 35 years and the founding director of the the Children’s Center for Cancer & Blood Diseases at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Professor and Head of the Division of Hematology-Oncology Department of Pediatrics, Keck School of Medicine of University of Southern California. He remains a leader in supportive care and research in pediatric oncology, with a special focus on neuroblastoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Ewing Sarcoma, acute lymphoblastic leukemia and brain tumors. From developing the first pediatric protective environment in 1971 for children undergoing intensive chemotherapy, to pioneering current efforts to develop academic and clinical care programs nationally and locally for adolescents and young adults with cancer, Dr. Siegel’s contributions have revolutionized the field of pediatric oncology. Dr. Siegel has been honored for his work by the American Cancer Society, Children Foundation, the Cancer Foundation, the Chase Foundation, Padres Contra El Cancer, the Israel Cancer Research Fund and Ronald McDonald House Charities, where he is a member of the National Board, and has consistently been listed among the nation’s top doctors in such publications asAmerica’s Top Doctors and Best Doctors in America. He is a father of one son, Joshua; grandfather of David and Elijah; and lives in Pacific Palisades with his wife of seven years.

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