Honoring Diversity in Cancer Prevention and Control at The Society for Integrative Oncology Conference

Conference honors diversity with an emphasis on changing social, cultural, and economic barriers

By Karolyn A. Gazella

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This year’s international conference of the Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) was hosted by the University of New Mexico School of Medicine and held on October 8–10 in Albuquerque, NM. This is the 9th year the SIO held its annual conference, and this year's focus was on patient-centered care, with a special emphasis on eliminating social, cultural, and economic barriers to cancer care.

According to conference chair Arti Prasad, MD, FACP, “This year’s conference is in support of the vision for our future where oncology care is patient-centered and dynamic in a world that focuses on preventive, personalized, and participatory care instead of simply on cancer as a disease.”

The first keynote was presented by Harold Freeman, MD, senior advisor to the director of the National Cancer Institute, who discussed addressing the needs of the medically underserved and described the history and principles of the patient navigation system he created. Paul Stamets, author and mycologist, provided a fascinating glimpse at the history and use of medical mushrooms during the day-2 keynote. The final keynote provided an overview of the importance of mind-body medicine in cancer care presented by Lorenzo Cohen, PhD, professor and director of the Integrative Medicine Program at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.

President of the SIO board, Kara Kelly, MD, deemed this year’s conference a “tremendous success.”

“We had terrific international representation with a wide range of integrative practitioners and researchers,” Kelly said. “I congratulate the Scientific Program Committee led by Dr. Arti Prasad for a job well done.”

This year's conference is in support of the vision for our future where oncology care is patient-centered and dynamic in a world that focuses on preventive, personalized, and participatory care.

Each keynote was followed by plenary sessions, clinical and research abstracts, as well as specialized workshops and interactive tumor boards. “I enjoyed the interdisciplinary tumor boards and the discussion on research the final day,” explained conference participant Renee Lang, ND, FABNO, who is with the Cancer Treatment Centers of America. “I was happy to hear that data collection and research on integrative oncology approaches is a priority for the organization. I thought there were some good suggestions for streamlining this process including the standardization of intake forms in EMR for extraction and reporting.”

“I enjoyed several aspects of the conference including Paul Stamets’ keynote on fungi,” said Dwight McKee, MD, an oncologist who consults with physicians in the design of treatment and research protocols. “At this conference I managed to learn several new things, including the fact that aspirin plus fish oil produces compounds called resolvins and protectins, which are more potent lipid anti-inflammatory compounds than either aspirin or fish oil alone.”

There was a lunchtime tour of the University of New Mexico Center for Life and the evening banquet was held at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center. “The networking at this year’s conference was greater than I had ever observed at prior SIO conferences,” said Kelly. “I truly believe this will lead to an even more dynamic organization.”

SIO is a nonprofit, multidisciplinary organization founded in 2003. Its mission is to advance evidence-based, comprehensive, integrative healthcare to improve the lives of people affected by cancer. For more information visit www.integrativeonc.org.

About the Author

Karolyn A. Gazella has been writing and publishing integrative health information since 1992. She is the publisher of the Natural Medicine Journal and the author or coauthor of hundreds of articles and several booklets and books including her latest book The Definitive Guide to Thriving After Cancer that she wrote with Lise Alschuler, ND, FABNO. Gazella is the co-creator and Chief Executive Officer of the iTHRIVE Plan, an innovative online wellness program specifically for cancer survivors.