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New Supportive & Integrative Oncology Program at UH wants all hands on deck

Innovations in Cancer - Summer 2016 - View Full PDF


Director of Supportive & Integrative Oncology, UH Seidman Cancer Center; Associate Professor of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine; Parker Hannifin-Helen Moss Cancer Research Foundation Professor of Integrative Oncology, Case Comprehensive Cancer Center at Case Western Reserve Univesity School of Medicine

Imagine if every patient fighting cancer were optimally equipped to fight the disease, each person drawing on his or her unique strengths with the help of evidence-based health-promoting strategies. That’s the vision behind the new Supportive & Integrative Oncology Program at University Hospitals Seidman Cancer Center.

“Usually when we think about cancer patients, we think about sick patients and attacking the cancer,” says hematologist and oncologist Richard T. Lee, MD, who recently left M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston to lead the new UH Seidman Cancer Center program. “What we’re suggesting is a paradigm shift. Can we transform the patient from a passive sick person and instead create a healthy, strong individual who is also helping to fight the cancer? We’ve been very successful with all our traditional cancer therapies. We need to be just as aggressive with our supportive care services.”

Integral to the new program is a multidisciplinary, coordinated approach to providing care. Using a biopsychosocial model, the Supportive & Integrative Oncology Program will incorporate everything from nutrition and exercise to chaplaincy, psychology and social work – to name just a few services.

“It’s not just having all these services available to patients, but coordinating them in a way that makes them one unified program,” Dr. Lee says. “Another interesting piece will be integrative medicine, where we’ll bring in nonpharmacologic approaches, such as acupuncture, meditation, music therapy and massage therapy, to work together with conventional therapies to provide more options for patients.”

Dr. Lee and his team are in the process of establishing evidencebased care pathways to help guide how supportive and integrative services are recommended and provided to patients.

“We need to be clear about how we’re going to help support patients, from diagnosis through treatment and into survivorship,” he says. “If the patient has severe pain, which resources should he or she be considered for? How are
we going to provide them?”

“The key is to focus on those services that have the most scientific data to support their use for specific indications. Just as we wouldn’t give chemotherapy to everyone and we’d only give certain types of chemotherapy to certain patients, it’s the same thing with acupuncture or meditation. The goal is to create something beyond the ‘spa’ approach, instead building supportive and integrative services into the spectrum of care that exists, with the aim of amplifying their effect bydelivering them as part of a cohesive program.

To more fully build supportive and integrative services into patient care, Dr. Lee and his colleagues are planning a supportive care board, similar to a tumor board, to discuss challenging patient cases. His team will also be active in research, pursuing natural product drug discovery and launching clinical trials involving acupuncture and meditation.

In taking on this new role at UH, Dr. Lee will be drawing on his experience at M.D. Anderson, where he most recently served as Associate Professor of Palliative, Rehabilitation and Integrative Medicine and Medical Director of the Integrative Medicine Program. Dr. Lee is a graduate of George Washington University, with dual degrees in anthropology and medicine. He completed his internal medicine residency at Stanford University, followed by a Fulbright scholarship to study traditional Chinese medicine and acupuncture at China Medical University Hospital in Taiwan and fellowship training in both hematology and medical oncology at the University of Chicago, where he served as chief fellow. Additionally, he completed a fellowship in palliative medicine at Northwestern University.

Dr. Lee says he’s looking forward to meeting the challenges posed by his new position at UH, with the goal of improving patient care and quality of life.

“Our patients need support, but how do we best provide it?” he asks. “By building an infrastructure to bring all services together, it will naturally create more interactions and greater coordination, leading to a more unified approach, which is all to the benefit of patients.”

To learn more about the Supportive & Integrative Oncology Program at UH Seidman Cancer Center, contact Dr. Lee at