Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine

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The Office of Cancer Complementary and Alternative Medicine (OCCAM) is an office of the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis. OCCAM was founded in 1998 and is responsible for NCI’s research agenda in complementary and alternative medicine (CAM), as it relates to cancer prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and symptom management.[1] The OCCAM differs from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM) in that it is exclusively focused on cancer, while the NCCAM funds a much broader program of NIH research into CAM treatments for all diseases and disorders.[2]

As part of the Division of Cancer Treatment and Diagnosis, OCCAM tries to identify gaps in CAM cancer research and funds scientists interested in researching this subject. The stated mission of OCCAM is to improve the quality of care of cancer patients, as well as those at risk for cancer and those recovering from cancer treatment. It aims to achieve this by helping advance evidence-based medicine in CAM practice and high-quality CAM research. OCCAM also tries to supply reliable information about the possible risks and benefits of alternative medicine to the health care community, scientists, and general public.[3]


OCCAM is organized into three main programs: Research Development and Support Program, Practice Assessment Program(PAP) and Communications and Outreach Program.

  • The Research Development and Support analyzes the CAM research portfolio, to aid funding and policy decisions. It also advises researchers on how to prepare grant applications based on review committee comments.
  • The goal of the Practice Assessment Program is to improve the quality of care of cancer patients by rigorous scientific evaluation of cancer CAM interventions. The PAP also reviews case summary data from patients who use CAM therapies for the treatment of cancer through the NCI Best Case Series Program. This program tries to identify successful applications of CAM therapies with anti-cancer effects.
  • The Communications and Outreach Program aims to acquire and develop high-quality information about cancer and CAM for NCI and for dissemination to the health care community, researchers, patients, and the general public.


OCCAM coordinates NCI's CAM research activities and tries to assist the growth of CAM research within the NCI, by increasing the capacity of the various relevant programs to support that research and keep it integrated with other research in related areas (e.g. nutrition, natural products, and behavioral sciences). A 2005 report in the Journal of Clinical Oncology analyzed the research portfolio of OCCAM and the grant applications it received and identified serious challenges in the design and performance of research into CAM therapies of cancer: notably the lack of standardized products or protocols for CAM therapy and the inherent difficulty in studying products with no known mode of action.[4]

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  1. ^ Richardson, Mary Ann; Jeffrey D. White (2000). "Complementary/Alternative Medicine and Cancer Research. A National Initiative". Cancer Practice. 8 (1): 45–48. ISSN 1065-4704. PMID 10732539. doi:10.1046/j.1523-5394.2000.81010.x. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 
  2. ^ Katie Cottingham (2002). "Funding for Research on Complementary and Alternative Medical Approaches (NIH)". Science. 
  3. ^ Assouline, Sarit; Wilson H Miller (2006-03-28). "High-dose vitamin C therapy: renewed hope or false promise?". Canadian Medical Association Journal. 174 (7): 956–957. ISSN 1488-2329. PMC 1405871Freely accessible. PMID 16567756. doi:10.1503/cmaj.060228. 
  4. ^ Buchanan, David R.; Jeffrey D. White; Ann M. O'Mara; Joseph W. Kelaghan; Wendy B. Smith; Lori M. Minasian (2005-09-20). "Research-Design Issues in Cancer-Symptom-Management Trials Using Complementary and Alternative Medicine: Lessons From the National Cancer Institute Community Clinical Oncology Program Experience". J Clin Oncol. 23 (27): 6682–6689. PMID 16170176. doi:10.1200/JCO.2005.10.728. Retrieved 2009-09-01. 

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