Bioenergy and Breast Cancer: More Tooth-Fairy Science Funded by NCCIH

Bioenergy and Breast Cancer: More Tooth-Fairy Science Funded by NCCIH

If you can put aside for a moment the fact that innocent lab mice were killed for no good reason and that you, the taxpayer, paid for this travesty, Bioenergy and Breast Cancer: A Report on Tumor Growth and Metastasis offers the reader some real laughs. But before we get to the fun, let's get some technical details out of the way.

The researchers, from the College of Nursing and Department of Mathematics at Montana State University,

"used a randomized, four-group design. Two groups of [a total of 56 6-to-8 week-old male mice] that were exposed to the intervention (daily HT [Healing Touch] and every other day HT) were compared to each other and to two groups of positive control mice (one located in the same room as the mice receiving HT and one group located in a different part of the building) . . . At the end of the study, metastasis and final tumor sizes were measured for each mouse."

Spoiler Alert:

"Bioenergy (Healing Touch) did not significantly impact tumor growth or metastasis in this study . . ."

Surprised? Me neither.

The study was funded by NCCIH (formerly, NCCAM) through 1R15AT003591-01A2. I can find no reference to this study on the NCCIH website or on NCCIH doesn't even have information on Healing Touch, although the website does say this about Reiki, HT's Eastern cousin:

"Reiki is based on an Eastern belief in an energy that supports the body's innate or natural healing abilities. However, there isn't any scientific evidence that such an energy exists."


"Reiki hasn't been clearly shown to be useful for any health-related purpose."

Fortunately for those seeking NCCIH funding, scientific plausibility isn't necessary for studying a CAM treatment. For an agency that is supposedly committed to doing "some real science for a change," the revelation that NCCIH continues to fund highly dubious studies is popping up with distressing frequency lately. In the last few weeks, we've learned that NCCIH recently funded a sauna "detoxification" study at a naturopathic school and that NCCIH is now funding TACT2, despite the underwhelming, and predictably overhyped, results of TACT, not to mention its ethical shortcomings. And now this.

Predictably, the study authors discuss how popular CAM is with breast cancer patients, although they leave off the nasty detail that CAM use does not provide any survival benefit in terminally ill cancer patients and, in fact, they report clinically significant worse Health-Related Quality of Life. They also cherry-pick their way through a number of studies that supposedly demonstrate benefits of "energy healing" in cancer treatment, both in cell cultures and in mice injected with cancer cells. Studies of this type have been handily deconstructed by our good friend Orac, including one by Gronowicz, et al., which, according to our authors, showed that

"Therapeutic Touch significantly reduced cancer metastasis [and] . . . and was able to demonstrate a significant downregulation of specific lymphocytes, macrophages, and serum cytokines."

Orac was much less impressed. As he points out, the real result was that there was no effect on tumor growth or lymph node metastasis (a small detail these authors don't mention) "so all we're left with is a fishing expedition among cytokines."

According to the authors,

"Practitioners of Healing Touch (HT) propose that every person is surrounded by a subtle energy field and that disruption of this field results in illness or disease. The HT practitioner, through compassionate intention during the transfer of healing energy from healer to patient, seeks to manipulate the energy field to restore health and promote the body's ability to heal itself."

They don't say anything about mice having subtle energy fields. As Orac notedt,

"How, for instance, does a TT [Therapeutic Touch] practitioner trained on humans detect the mouse energy field? It is, after all, presumably so much smaller and squeakier than a human energy field."

In any event, here's how the HT practitioner did her thing with the mice in this study:

"The HT practitioner prepared for the session by centering and aligning herself, attuning to the mice and assessing their energy fields, and setting the following intentions: (1) energy will focus on this cage only, meaning the treatment intervention would not expand to other mice . . . in the room"

One has to be impressed with the dedication to appropriate controls in this study. After all, if the energy expanded to other mice, the study results would be highly suspect.

Continuing with the -- um -- protocol:

"(2) cellular vibration level will be increased to each mouse to dissolve the tumor(s)"

So cellular vibrations can dissolve tumors. Who knew? But, even though the cellular vibrations will dissolve the tumors, no stone must be left unturned. Hence, she throws in some magic angiogenesis inhibitor:

"(3) the blood supply will be diminished to the tumor cells"

Finally, just to be sure,

"(4) no metastasis will occur."

Only it did.

For those of you interested in the technical aspects, here's a description of how it's done:

"To accomplish those intentions, the bioenergy practitioner used a 'hand scan' over the cages to determine levels of energy or auric field for each group. The practitioner would then 'hold the field' to intensify energy to the mice. 'Pain drain' was used to drain away irregularity from a specific or general area of the mouse bodies. 'Hands in motion' would then be used to soothe and calm the field, and 'hands still' was used to energize the spleen and adrenals."

At one time in the not-too-distant past, people who claimed they could determine a mouse's auric field and intensify his energy, or energize his spleen and adrenals, not to mention dissolve his cancerous tumors, might very well be sent for a psych evaluation, because having delusions is a symptom of illness. But that was before the government started paying people to do these very things and formerly respectable academic medical centers starting offering "energy healing" as a treatment.

Following this exercise in worthless tooth fairy science, the poor mice were euthanized.

Of course, this being a CAM study, spinning the results is de rigueur. Thus, even though Healing Touch didn't significantly impact tumor growth or metastasis, the authors find "a trend" toward decrease in tumor size and metastasis in their results. They think that maybe the time frame was not long enough to detect differences or maybe the dosage was insufficient. Thus – you guessed it! – more studies are needed.

"Researchers, encouraged by these initial findings, can now move in the direction of setting up research parameters to more fully explore levels of dosage, frequency, or duration."

No. Researchers should not do anything of the kind. Energy healing is pseudoscience and studying it is tooth fairy science. This is a waste of taxpayer funds and cruelty to good lab mice.

Points of Interest 10/03/2016
Points of Interest 10/01/2016

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