Acupuncture Continuing Education

Acupuncture Lowers Chemo Side Effects, Ups Immunity

Acupuncture reduces chemotherapy side effects for colorectal cancer patients. New research confirms that acupuncture benefits the immune system and improves the psychological state for these patients. Blood samples prove that acupuncture enhances the immune system’s NK (natural killer) cells for colorectal cancer patients. Subjective testing showed improved mental health scores after acupuncture. Image of a 1 inch filiform needle made of stainless steel with wound handle. The researchers concluded that acupuncture is both “feasible and safe for CRC (colorectal cancer) patients….”

The research team commented that NK cells are “a first line of defence against the metastatic spread of tumour cells.” Data shows that decreases in NK cell numbers and activity correspond to the progression of cancer. NK cells are immune system lymphocytes that are part of bodily responses to pathological concerns including tumors and virally infected cells. The new study shows that acupuncture benefits NK cell numbers thereby supporting the immune system. 

The study used a randomized, controlled investigation model. The acupuncture group received acupuncture treatments twice a week starting one week prior to chemotherapy for a total of six acupuncture treatments. A standardized protocol was used in the administration of care. Normally, acupuncture point prescriptions are customized contingent upon an individual’s differential diagnosis. In this case, a standard set of acupuncture points were used to eliminate variables.

Lower extremity acupuncture points were: LV3, ST36, SP9, GB39. Upper extremity points were LI4, PC5, TB5, LU7. Moxibustion was applied to SI6, TB5, ST32 and CV6 for two minutes at each acupuncture point. Each acupuncture treatment lasted for a total of 45 minutes. Average needle depth was 10mm and manual acupuncture was applied until a de qi sensation was achieved. Disposable acupuncture needles of 36 gauge (Tewa brand) were used. Close-up of a 1 inch acupuncture needle.

The objective testing revealed benefits to NK cell levels while subjective testing revealed psychological and physical benefits to patients receiving acupuncture. Improvements included reductions of gastrointestinal disorders, urological disorders and male sexual dysfunction. The acupuncture group also reported fewer side effects due to chemotherapy. The acupuncture study group had significantly less depression reported when compared with the control group.

The researchers discovered that acupuncture reduced both anxiety and depression and exerted “positive trends on the levels of WBC, ANC, B and NK cells….” In addition, “The increase on WBC and ANC resulted in approximately a 1.5x reduction in leukopenia and neutropenia rates. The acupuncture group showed a twofold increase in NK cells rate compared to the control group.” The team notes that this data indicates that acupuncture exerts an immunomodulatory effect in colorectal cancer patients receiving chemotherapy.

No adverse events occurred as a result of acupuncture. As a result, the research team concluded that acupuncture is both “feasible and safe.” The team notes that acupuncture may “stimulate anticancer immunity” and “promote a myeliprotective effect.” The team notes that this data warrants continued investigation into the integration of acupuncture into colorectal cancer patient care.

Pais, Irene, Nuno Correia, Isabel Pimentel, Maria José Teles, Esmeralda Neves, Júlia Vasconcelos, Judite Guimarães4 Nancy Azevedo et al. "EFFECTS OF ACUPUNCTURE IN LEUKOPENIA, NEUTROPENIA, NK AND B CELLS IN CANCER PATIENTS UNDERGOING CHEMOTHERAPY: A RANDOMIZED PILOT STUDY."

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