Donald I. Abrams, MD - Integrative Oncologist
“I believe people, especially those getting cancer treatments, really benefit from having both a Western diagnosis, as well as a whole-person approach. Good nutrition is an important part of the prescription, but other options are: fitness training, massage, acupuncture, herbs, biofeedback, meditation, guided imagery, integrative psychiatry, yoga, or tai chi.” Donald Abrams, MD, is Professor of Clinical Medicine at the University of California San Francisco and Chief of Hematology / Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital. He provides Integrative Oncology consultations at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. He is co-chair of the UCSF Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center’s developing program in Supportive Care. He served as Assistant Director of the UCSF Positive Health Program at San Francisco General Hospital and was chair of the Community Consortium, a professional association of more than 200 primary care providers treating Bay Area patients with HIV. He conducted numerous clinical trials investigating complementary therapies in patients with HIV including therapeutic touch, Traditional Chinese Medicine interventions, medical marijuana, medicinal mushrooms and distant healing. His interest in botanical therapies led him to pursue a two-year Fellowship in the Program in Integrative Medicine at the University of Arizona which he completed in December 2004. His particular passion in the field involves nutrition and cancer. Since completing his Fellowship, Dr. Abrams has been providing Integrative Medicine consultation to people living with and beyond cancer at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine. He remains interested in conducting clinical trials in integrative oncology particularly investigating medicinal mushrooms, Traditional Chinese Medicine interventions and massage. Dr. Abrams is the immediate past-President of the Society for Integrative Oncology. He has also been a member of various Education sub-committees of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. He has co-edited an Oxford University Press textbook in Integrative Oncology with Andrew Weil, MD. He was also named a Top Cancer Doctor in Newsweek‘s Special Health Issue on Curing Cancer, in the category of Medical Oncology (details). Integrating cannabis into clinical cancer care ~ Cannabis species have been used as medicine for thousands of years; only since the 1940s has the plant not been widely available for medical use. However, an increasing number of jurisdictions are making it possible for patients to obtain the botanical for medicinal use. For the cancer patient, cannabis has a number of potential benefits, especially in the management of symptoms. Cannabis is useful in combatting anorexia, chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting, pain, insomnia, and depression. Cannabis might be less potent than other available antiemetics, but for some patients, it is the only agent that works, and it is the only antiemetic that also increases appetite. Inhaled cannabis is more effective than placebo in ameliorating peripheral neuropathy in a number of conditions, and it could prove useful in chemotherapy-induced neuropathy. A pharmacokinetic interaction study of vaporized cannabis in patients with chronic pain on stable doses of sustained-release opioids demonstrated no clinically significant change in plasma opiates, while suggesting the possibility of synergistic analgesia. Aside from symptom management, an increasing body of in vitro and animal-model studies supports a possible direct anticancer effect of cannabinoids by way of a number of different mechanisms involving apoptosis, angiogenesis, and inhibition of metastasis. Despite an absence of clinical trials, abundant anecdotal reports that describe patients having remarkable responses to cannabis as an anticancer agent, especially when taken as a high-potency orally ingested concentrate, are circulating. Human studies should be conducted to address critical questions related to the foregoing effects.