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CONTEXT AND AIM: Complementary and alternative therapies (CAM) are gaining popularity amongst patients as add on to conventional medicine. Yoga stands third amongst all CAM that is being used by cancer patients today. Different schools of yoga use different sets of practices, with some using a more physical approach and many using meditation and/or breathing. All these modules are developed based on the needs of the patient. This paper is an attempt to provide the basis for a comprehensive need based integrative yoga module for cancer patients at different stages of treatment and follow up. In this paper, the holistic modules of the integrated approach of yoga therapy for cancer (IAYTC) have been developed based on the patient needs, as per the observations by the clinicians and the caregivers. Authors have attempted to systematically create holistic modules of IAYTC for various stages of the disease and treatment. These modules have been used in randomized trials to evaluate its efficacy and have shown to be effective as add-on to conventional management of cancer. Thus, the objective of this effort was to present the theoretical basis and validate the need based holistic yoga modules for cancer patients.MATERIALS AND METHODS: Literature from traditional texts including Vedas, Ayurveda, Upanishads, Bhagavat Gita, Yoga Vasishtha etc. and their commentaries were looked into for references of cancer and therapeutic directives. Present day scientific literature was also explored with regards to defining cancer, its etiopathology and its management. Results of studies done using CAM therapies were also looked at, for salient findings. Focused group discussions (FGD) amongst researchers, experienced gurus, and medical professionals involved in research and clinical cancer practice were carried out with the objectives of determining needs of the patient and yoga practices that could prove efficient. A list of needs at different stages of conventional therapies (surgery, chemotherapy and radiation therapy) was listed and yoga modules were developed accordingly. Considering the needs, expected side effects, the energy levels and the psychological states of the participants, eight modules evolved. RESULTS: The results of the six steps for developing the validated module are reported. Step 1: Literature review from traditional yoga and ayurveda texts on etiopathogenesis and management of cancer (arbuda), and the recent literature on cancer stem cells and immunology of cancer. Step 2: Focused group discussions and deliberations to compile the needs of patients based on the expected side effects, energy levels and the psychological state of the patient as observed by the caregivers and the clinicians. Step 3: Content validation through consensus by the experts for the eight modules of IAYTC that could be used as complimentary to conventional management of cancer at different stages during and after the diagnosis was created. Step 4: Field testing for safety and feasibility of the modules through pilot studies. Step 5: Compilation of the results of efficacy trials through RCTs and step 6: A review of our studies on mechanisms to offer evidence for action of IAYTC on psycho-neuro-immunological pathways in cancer. CONCLUSION: The evidence from the traditional knowledge and recent scientific studies validates eight modules of integrated approach of yoga therapy for cancer that can be used safely and effectively as complimentary during all conventional cancer therapies.
Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are stem-like tumor populations that are reported to contribute towards tumor growth, maintenance and recurrence after therapy. Hypoxia increases CSC fraction and promotes acquisition of a stem-cell-like state. Cancer stem cells are critically dependant on the hypoxia-inducible factor-1 (HIF-1) for survival, self-renewal, tumor growth and maintenance of their undifferentiated phenotype. Recent researches show that stage of differentiation of the tumor cells is predictive of their susceptibility to natural killer cell (NK) cell mediated cytotoxicity and cancer stem cells are significant targets of NK cell cytotoxicity. Studies also show that reversion of tumor cells to a less-differentiated phenotype can be achieved by blocking NFκB. Yoga therapy (yogic lifestyle modifications encompassing physical postures, breathing practices, relaxation techniques and meditations) is known to modulate neural, endocrine and immune functions at the cellular level through influencing cell cycle control, aging, oxidative stress, apoptosis and several pathways of stress signaling molecules. Yoga therapy has also been shown to enhance natural killer cell activity and modulate stress and DNA damage in breast cancer patients receiving radiotherapy. Recent study found that brief daily yogic meditation may reverse the pattern of increased NFκB-related transcription of pro-inflammatory cytokines in leukocytes. Thus, yoga therapy has the potential to reduce cancer stem cell survival, self -renewal and tumor growth by modifying the tumor micro-environment through various mechanisms such as; 1) reducing HIF-1 activity by enhanced oxygenation, 2) promoting NK cell activity directly (or indirectly through down regulating NFκB expression), thereby enhancing NK cell mediated CSC lysis, and 3) by minimizing the aberrant expressions or activities of various hormones, cytokines, chemokines and tumor signaling pathways. Yoga therapy may have a synergistic effect with conventional modalities of treatment in preventing cancer progression and recurrences.