Evidence-Based Practice Guidelines on Integrative Therapies for Breast Cancer

Dr Heather Greenlee - featured pic

Bastyr Alumna Dr. Heather Greenlee Discusses New Breast Cancer Integrative Care Guidelines

The Society for Integrative Oncology (SIO) has recently released guidelines for integrative therapies to improve breast cancer treatment.  These guidelines are evidence-based and have been endorsed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) for use during and after breast cancer treatments.  The endorsement was announced in the Journal of Clinical Oncology after careful review by the ASCO Expert Panel.  In their endorsement, the panel stated that the SIO guidelines are “clear, thorough, and based on the most relevant scientific evidence.”


One of the co-chairs of the SIO task force, Heather Greenlee, ND, PhD, is a past president of SIO and has referred to the ASCO endorsement as “a very important step for the field of integrative oncology.”  Dr. Greenlee, who received her naturopathic medicine degree from Bastyr University in 2001, has clinical expertise in integrative oncology and cancer survivorship and has used acupuncture, mind-body modalities, and dietary supplements to help treat cancer patients and ease their symptoms from treatments.  Dr. Greenlee also serves as an Adjunct Associate Professor of Epidemiology at Columbia University.


In compiling the guidelines, the researchers appraised more than 80 different integrative therapies currently available.  They then developed “grades of evidence” using the most relevant scientific research on the subject.  The SIO guidelines were originally published in 2017 and used peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials that were conducted from 1990 to 2013.  To ensure the quality and relevancy of these studies, they were required to meet the following criteria:


  • More than 50 percent of the studies had to include breast cancer patients or separately report results for breast cancer patients;
  • Had an interventional treatment that included an integrative therapy during treatment of the cancer OR used an integrative therapy as a means of alleviating symptoms and side effects from cancer diagnosis and/or treatment;
  • Address an endpoint of clinical relevance for breast cancer patients and survivors.


Dr. Greenlee speaks highly of how thoroughly the guidelines were scrutinized, stating, “We looked at all of this with a critical eye…We have a very high bar and followed a very rigorous process with both the SIO and ASCO to evaluate these therapies.  There were many different disciplinary eyes vetting them.”  These guidelines were the result of collaboration between naturopathic doctors and international institutions from across multiple disciplines.





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