Researchers in Austria found that quality of life (QOL) was improved with the use of an individualized homeopathic regimen over placebo in patients with stage IIIB/IIIC or IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). They also reported a longer median survival time among patients who received the intervention. The study investigators reported their findings in the journal The Oncologist.

The prospective, multicenter, double-blind, phase 3 study (ClinicalTrials.gov Identifier: NCT01509612) included adult patients with histologically or cytologically confirmed stage IIIB/IIIC or IV NSCLC in the prior 8 weeks. Most patients were randomly assigned 1:1 to receive an individualized homeopathic treatment or a placebo; a third trial arm was a control group of patients who had chosen not to participate in the randomized trial but agreed to participate in the survival analyses.

The primary study outcome was QOL, based on scores for global health status and well-being at 18 weeks, compared with baseline. QOL was evaluated using the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-C30) and the 36-Item Short Form Survey (SF-36). The secondary study outcome was overall survival time over an observation period of 730 days.


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The homeopathic intervention arm included 51 patients, the placebo arm included 47 patients, and the control arm included 52 patients. Patients in the homeopathic intervention arm showed significantly improved global health QOL at both 9 weeks and 18 weeks, relative to baseline. Additionally, their scores suggested higher functional status and reduced symptom burden, compared with the placebo group (P <.001 for each comparison).

Median survival time in the homeopathic intervention arm was 435 days, compared with 257 days in the placebo arm (P =.010). Median survival time was 228 days in the control arm, which was significantly shorter than what was observed in the homeopathy arm (P <.001), but similar to that of the placebo arm (P =.258). Survival rates were 45.1%, 23.4%, and 13.5% in the homeopathy, placebo, and control arms, respectively.

These findings suggest homeopathy positively affects QOL and survival. However, the study investigators noted that “[a] higher QOL might have contributed to the prolonged survival.” They also suggested further studies include other tumor types.

“Our study supports trials in other fields of complementary medicine such as acupuncture for chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy in breast cancer survivors,” the study investigators concluded.

Disclosures: Some authors declared affiliations with biotech, pharmaceutical, and/or device companies. Please see the original reference for a full list of disclosures.

Reference

Frass M, Lechleitner P, Gründling C, et al. Homeopathic treatment as an add-on therapy may improve quality of life and prolong survival in patients with non-small cell lung cancer: a prospective, randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, three-arm, multicenter study. Oncologist. 2020;25(12):e1930-e1955. doi:10.1002/onco.13548