Established in 1991 and located in Daejeon in South Korea, the East-West Cancer Center has treated more than 30,000 patients with a unique program based on the principles of traditional oriental medicine.
It’s called Wheel Balance Therapy (WBT).
WBT’s mind, body and spirit approach aims to maximize the natural healing power of the human body by using a combination of treatments including diet, herbs, meditation and exercise.
In a moment, I’ll talk about how well WBT works. First let’s examine what it is. . .
Creating balance and harmony
The traditional oriental approach views the body as a network of organ systems that, when healthy, work together to create metabolic balance and harmony.
When sick with a disease such as cancer, the body is in a state of imbalance, so WBT is applied to support the body’s physiological environment and stimulate immunity. By these means the therapy induces tumors to regress and remain dormant.
When a patient arrives at the Center – which is attached to a conventional university hospital – his or her history is reviewed and the staff conducts a physical examination including ECG, blood work, organ function and radiology tests.
Based on these tests the patient enters into one of four programs.
- Intensive traditional oriental medicine (TOM) for patients who refuse or are not candidates for conventional therapy
- Combination of conventional and TOM
- Prevention of cancer recurrence or spread using a milder TOM approach.
- Late-stage supportive care in patients with a short life expectancy.
Like many anti-cancer protocols, the treatment begins with what you
eat. . .
This is varied and individualized depending on whether patients are on program 1 or 2 and also on their constitution. A unique traditional Korean system classifies people into four constitutions based on the opposite but complementary principles of yin and yang.
In general, the diet includes small amounts of beef, bone broth and loach fish soup as well as whole grains, beans, fruits, vegetables and green vegetable juices.
Herbs to promote immunity and prevent metastasis
Three supplements are routinely used called Hang-Am Plus, Myun-Yuk Plus and Chung Gan Plus. All were developed at the Center.
Hang-Am Plus combines nine herbs with the purpose of inhibiting angiogenesis, the formation of blood vessels which allow tumors to grow and spread. One of these herbs, a mushroom called Cordyceps militaris, has been shown to repress the growth of melanoma cells in mice. This herb, together with another ingredient in the formula, Panax notoginseng root, induces apoptosis (programmed cell death) in human lung carcinoma cells.
Myun-Yuk Plus was designed to help withstand the negative effects of conventional therapies. It aims to prevent early termination of treatment due to physical weakness as well as stopping the spread of cancer and its recurrence.
Its four herbs, Astragalus membranaceus, Salvia miltiorrhiza, Hericium erinaceum and Panax ginseng all stimulate the immune system. Hericium, in particular, has been shown in lab studies to play three key roles in immunity: activating the immune cells called macrophages, increasing nitric oxide production and triggering activity of another type of immune cell, natural killer cells.
Chung Gan Plus comprises 13 herbs for healing the liver. The supplement breaks down fats and alcohol and suppresses fibrosis (scar tissue). In a patient with raised levels of three liver enzymes, it took just five days for the herbal formula to return these markers to the normal range.
The center’s therapists prescribe other herbal formulas as needed according to TOM principles. For instance, one formula is used to relieve stagnation and flatulence within the digestive system by purging the adverse flow of qi (life energy, pronounced “chee”). Another is used to disperse depressed qi in the liver and nourish the blood by invigorating the spleen.
Treatments to activate metabolism
Low metabolic rate is a side effect of conventional treatments. The East-West Cancer Center believes this needs to be addressed to build strength and thereby prevent the survival of cancer cells. Six methods are used to achieve this.
Acupuncture is provided to most patients to relieve pain, radiotherapy-induced dry mouth, and chemotherapy and radiotherapy-induced nausea, and to improve functional ability and raise overall quality of life. The system of acupuncture used is unique to Korea. Called Saam, or the four needle technique, only four acupuncture points are used at each treatment session.
Pharmacopuncture is a new therapy, although based on traditional theories of Korean medicine. It involves injecting homeopathic amounts of herbal extract to certain acupuncture points. This is said to have a powerful healing effect.
Thermotherapy is mainly carried out through moxibustion – a type of heat therapy where dried plant materials are burned close to the skin surface. The aim is to stimulate the flow of qi and strengthen the blood.
Another type of thermotherapy is the use of hot packs. Either charcoal or soybean pastes are wrapped in gauze and placed on the stomach. Charcoal is used for detoxification while soybean stimulates digestion.
Massage is carried out daily to relieve muscle tension and pain, reduce anxiety and alleviate stress.
Physical Therapy is applied through cupping – cups are applied to acupuncture points on the back. These areas are then heated using infrared rays. The cups are left in place for 15 minutes. This is said to relieve pain, improve the circulation of blood and qi, and leave the patient feeling refreshed.
Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS), which uses low voltage electrical currents, is also used for pain relief.
Hydrotherapy at the Center is by way of hip and foot baths. For the former, a bag of herbs is added to warm water in which the patient soaks for 20 to 30 minutes. This helps improve the circulation and stimulate digestion. It also includes a vigorous rubdown to increase circulation and get rid of dead skin. Foot baths have similar benefits and promote blood circulation.
Meditation, dialogue and exercise
The basic meditation method encourages patients to ease tension and induce relaxation by first focusing on each body part, and secondly by picturing a quiet scene from nature. They are also guided in using their imagination to see cancer cells leaving the body.
Once a week there is a meeting of cancer patients with the whole team – doctors, nurses, physical therapists, dietitians and psychiatrists. Patients can ask questions, talk about their feelings and make suggestions. In the Wheel Balance Therapy it’s considered important for patients to take personal responsibility for their health and an active role in their care. This is more likely to result in both physical and psychological improvement.
Exercise takes the form of accompanied hiking up a nearby mountain for as long as the patient is able – up to two hours. This is seen as a good way to improve aerobic fitness and quality of life, not to mention any vitamin D deficiency.
Best case results
In 1991 the National Cancer Institute offered to evaluate complementary and alternative treatments for their effectiveness and asked for submissions based on the best cases.
The criteria for inclusion are strict, with case study submissions required to include every pathology slide, scan, blood test result etc., and there must be no concurrent or recent conventional therapies that could influence the results.
A “persuasive” case is judged as one of complete remission. A “supportive” case results in a partial response or the disease remaining stable.
Because of the strict criteria, only two out of six case histories submitted by the Center were accepted for evaluation.
The first was a 76-year-old female patient with small cell lung carcinoma who undertook no conventional treatment. She arrived at the Center in 1998 and was alive and well in 2007. The NCI deemed this case persuasive.
The second was endometrial cancer in a 72-year-old who likewise received no conventional treatments. She was alive and well five years after her first consultation. This was determined to be a supportive case.
The four that did not meet the criteria were cancers of the endometrium, liver, lung and colon. All came to the Center after receiving conventional treatments. The lung cancer patient survived seven years after admission. Between four and nine years after their first visit, the other three patients were alive and well.
Stage 4 cancer patient now symptom-free
The East-West Cancer Center also published a case report in Integrative Cancer Therapies in 2010. A 59-year-old stage 4 lung cancer patient was transferred to the Center after surgery suffering from labored breathing on exertion, pain and emotional stress.
Treatment with Wheel Balance Therapy resulted in the alleviation of symptoms and disease-free survival of two years and four months without metastasis or recurrence. The authors of the report concluded that WBT “may have the potential for extending life expectancy, controlling symptoms and improving quality of life in cancer patients.”