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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Classical homeopathy in the treatment of cancer patients - a prospective observational study of two independent cohorts

Matthias Rostock14*, Johannes Naumann12, Corina Guethlin25, Lars Guenther2, Hans H Bartsch1 and Harald Walach3

Author affiliations

1 Tumour Biology Center at Albert Ludwig's University Freiburg, Germany

2 Dept. of Evaluation Research in Complementary Medicine, University Hospital Freiburg, Germany

3 Institute for Transcultural Health Studies and Samueli Institute, European Office, Europa Universit├Ąt Viadrina, Frankfurt (Oder), Germany

4 Institute of Complementary Medicine, University Hospital Zurich, Switzerland

5 Institute for General Practice, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University Frankfurt, Germany

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Citation and License

BMC Cancer 2011, 11:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-11-19

Published: 17 January 2011

Abstract

Background

Many cancer patients seek homeopathy as a complementary therapy. It has rarely been studied systematically, whether homeopathic care is of benefit for cancer patients.

Methods

We conducted a prospective observational study with cancer patients in two differently treated cohorts: one cohort with patients under complementary homeopathic treatment (HG; n = 259), and one cohort with conventionally treated cancer patients (CG; n = 380). For a direct comparison, matched pairs with patients of the same tumour entity and comparable prognosis were to be formed.

Main outcome parameter: change of quality of life (FACT-G, FACIT-Sp) after 3 months.

Secondary outcome parameters: change of quality of life (FACT-G, FACIT-Sp) after a year, as well as impairment by fatigue (MFI) and by anxiety and depression (HADS).

Results

HG: FACT-G, or FACIT-Sp, respectively improved statistically significantly in the first three months, from 75.6 (SD 14.6) to 81.1 (SD 16.9), or from 32.1 (SD 8.2) to 34.9 (SD 8.32), respectively. After 12 months, a further increase to 84.1 (SD 15.5) or 35.2 (SD 8.6) was found. Fatigue (MFI) decreased; anxiety and depression (HADS) did not change.

CG: FACT-G remained constant in the first three months: 75.3 (SD 17.3) at t0, and 76.6 (SD 16.6) at t1. After 12 months, there was a slight increase to 78.9 (SD 18.1). FACIT-Sp scores improved significantly from t0 (31.0 - SD 8.9) to t1 (32.1 - SD 8.9) and declined again after a year (31.6 - SD 9.4). For fatigue, anxiety, and depression, no relevant changes were found.

120 patients of HG and 206 patients of CG met our criteria for matched-pairs selection. Due to large differences between the two patient populations, however, only 11 matched pairs could be formed. This is not sufficient for a comparative study.

Conclusion

In our prospective study, we observed an improvement of quality of life as well as a tendency of fatigue symptoms to decrease in cancer patients under complementary homeopathic treatment. It would take considerably larger samples to find matched pairs suitable for comparison in order to establish a definite causal relation between these effects and homeopathic treatment.