Expert to Talk about Body's Natural Defenses in Preventing, Treating Cancer

January 14, 2010

David Servan-Schreiber

David Servan-Schreiber, MD, PhD, a physician, neuroscientist, science writer, founding member of Doctors Without Borders and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, will speak at UCSF on preventing and treating cancer.

Members of the UCSF community are invited to hear Servan-Schreiber’s talk, which is scheduled for Friday, Jan, 15, from noon to 1 p.m. at the UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, 1701 Divisadero St., Suite 150 in San Francisco.
At the age of 31, Servan-Schreiber was diagnosed with a brain tumor. After undergoing surgery and chemotherapy, he returned to his pre-cancer lifestyle. Within a few years, the cancer was back. The news of his relapse ignited a powerful shift in his viewpoint—as both a physician and patient—of modern cancer care.

In his book, “Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life,” Servan-Schreiber details his exploration of how a healthy lifestyle can help combat cancer. In addition to using modern medicine’s treatments, such as chemotherapy, surgery or radiation, he urges people to integrate conventional cancer care with other healing practices. 

Donald Abrams, MD, chief of Hematology/Oncology at San Francisco General Hospital, and director of Integrative Oncology Research at the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, says that “David’s belief that it is just as important to care for the patient’s ‘terrain’ as well as their tumor is entirely consistent with our integrative cancer care practice at the Osher Center.”

Nutrition is an important part of the prescription, but integrative oncology also includes fitness training, massage, acupuncture, supplements, biofeedback, meditation, guided imagery, expressive arts, integrative psychiatry, yoga or tai chi, Abrams says.

Servan-Schreiber is a member of the board of directors of the Society for Integrative Oncology of which Abrams recently became President.

Lifestyle approaches foster the body’s natural defenses to prevent, fight and treat cancer. Nutrition is a key element in this, says Servan-Schreiber, who believes in the healing power of food.  Servan-Schreiber believes the foods people put eat will either nourish our defenses to combat cancer or strengthen the cancer cells. For example, eating foods such as garlic, leeks and onions, or drinking green tea, give the body powerful phytochemicals that have disease-fighting properties. 

Servan-Schreiber also imparts that “a little more exercise goes a long way,” referencing a study composed of women in remission from breast cancer. This study looked at women who along with eating five servings of fruits or vegetables per day, walked 30 minutes, six times a week and lowered their likeliness of relapse in half (Pierce, 2007).*

Friday’s lecture is part of the Mount Zion Healthy Living series of free noontime lectures on important topics that provide practical, easy ways to be proactive with health. This lecture is presented by the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine, National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health and the Ida & Joseph Friend Cancer Resource Center. The series is made possible with generous support from the Mount Zion Health Fund.

*Pierce, J.P., et al., Greater Survival After Breast Cancer in Physically Active Women With High Vegetable-Fruit Intake Regardless of Obesity. Journal of Clinical Oncology, 2007. 25(17), 2345-2351.

Related Links:


UCSF Osher Center for Integrative Medicine

UCSF National Center of Excellence in Women’s Health

UCSF Cancer Resource Center