The article illustrates two main alternative approaches to cancer. One is atomistic and focuses on the cancer cells: treatment sets out to remove the cancer cells surgically, or otherwise kill them off. The other is more holistic and looks at the whole-body context in which cancer cells exist, and builds on the body’s own regulative processes.
Immunotherapy drugs work by stimulating the immune system to recognise and fight the cancer. But there are many other influences on the immune system. My former colleague at King’s College Hospital, Steven Greer, showed as long ago as 1978 the link between emotional states, especially anger, and the immune system.
There do indeed seem to be close connections between the immune system and people’s mental and emotional state. It seems highly likely that spiritual practices affect the immune system. If spiritual healing has an effect on cancer it is probably mediated through the immune system, as Michael Boivin of Michigan University argued in an excellent chapter he wrote for the book I edited on Spiritual Healing.
Immunotherapy already has beneficial effects on lung cancer, and the recent breakthroughs in its use with prostate cancer are very good news. However, I particularly want to draw attention here to the philosophical shift to a more to a more whole-body perspective that immunotherapy represents.
Drugs are one way to strengthen the immune system. But I believe there is much still to discovered about how our state of mind affects our immune system. Healthy patterns of emotional regulation, and spiritual practices like meditation can probably also keep the immune system strong.
Healthier states of mind may sometimes produce remission of cancer. However, they are even more relevant to keeping the body in a state where cancer is less likely to develop.