Integrative Medicine Service: Getting The Benefits of Natural Medicine while Avoiding The Risks

July 10, 2020 Dan Labriola, ND Medical Director, Swedish Integrative Medicine at SCI

A scientific paper co-authored by Dr. Robert Livingston, then Chief of Oncology at UW Medicine, and myself published in the journal ONCOLOGY in 1999 and later in American Society of Clinical Oncology Post, demonstrated how some nutritional supplements prevent cancer treatment from working [1] [3]. The paper was one of the reasons Swedish Cancer Institute (SCI) engaged our group to protect patients.

In 2005, a Canadian radiation therapy trial confirmed our conclusions that incorrect use of supplements increased recurrences [2]. In late 2019, a clinical trial of breast cancer patients showed that those who incorrectly used supplements during treatment had a dramatic, 41%, higher recurrence rate than those who did it correctly [3].Avoiding this recurrence risk is one example of the care provided by our Integrative Medicine Service. In fact, there are three main objectives for Integrative Medicine care.

First: Keep the patient as strong and healthy as possible

We do a comprehensive review of systems and address a wide variety of issues that impact quality of life and tolerance of treatment. Naturopathic medicine, including supplements and other strategies, have been shown to provide real benefit beyond what is available with conventional medical/drug care including  conditions such as reflux, heartburn, nausea, neuropathy, muscle strength balance and falls, poor sleep, constipation, diarrhea, blood pressure, headaches and blood sugar issues to name a few. Our doctors use evidence-based natural medicines, although we occasionally write a prescription. Many of the patients referred to us by Swedish cancer specialists did not get complete relief using drugs alone.

Prior to treatment we provide a personalized plan for your specific upcoming treatment.

During treatment, in addition to your personalized plan, we remain accessible on short notice and respond quickly if any new side effects. Most patients have few problems, but if you need us, we are there for you.

After treatment, we address any lingering issues following treatment and prevention. More on that below.

Second: Make certain that all supplements, treatments, and drugs work together without interference.

The personalized plan we create (called an adjunctive plan) makes certain that you get the full benefit from the cancer treatment prescribed by your SCI doctors. It’s worth noting that some diets, multiple vitamins, and even juicing can potentially prevent cancer treatment from working.

Third: A few ounces of prevention

Many patients attribute their cancer diagnosis to an event or habit but, in truth, that is not a fair assumption. Cancer is a complicated, unintuitive process that can rarely be blamed on any single cause, so put away the guilt and look ahead because we can’t change water under the bridge. Prevention strategies potentially reduce risk and improve immune system competence. No guarantees (as with most things in life) but everything you do that’s positive is a step in the right direction.

About our Integrative Medicine service

The Swedish Integrative Medicine service is a partnership with Northwest Natural Health® Specialty Care Clinic, the oldest, most experienced, and most published integrative medicine system working directly with state-of-the-art hospital cancer programs. Our doctors are specially trained, accredited, and meet Swedish’s strict standards.

We see most patients by telehealth these days which is frequently reimbursed by insurance, but also have office hours at Swedish First Hill and Swedish Issaquah hospitals and other northwest locations.

Our doctors seamlessly coordinate every visit with all your other doctors with the Swedish EPIC system. This ensures that all your providers know everything you are doing.  Most patients can self-refer but you should check with your insurance. We also see caregivers and family members who may endure more than the patient but frequently do not get their needs attended to.

You can reach Integrative Medicine Service at 206-386-3015.

Dan Labriola ND, Medical Director, Swedish Integrative Medicine service at SCI



[1] Labriola D, Livingston R: Possible interactions between dietary antioxidants and chemotherapy. Oncology (Williston Park) 13:1003-1008, 1999.

[2] Bairati I, Meyer F, Gélinas M, et al: Randomized trial of antioxidant vitamins to prevent acute adverse effects of radiation therapy in head and neck cancer patients. J Clin Oncol 23:5805-5813, 2005


[4] Ambrosone C., Dietary Supplement Use During Chemotherapy and Survival Outcomes of Patients with Breast Cancer Enrolled in a Cooperative Group Clinical Trial (SWOG S0221)


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