Off-label, Overlooked or Novel Cancer Approaches (ONCAs): Introduction

Non-standard options, such as off-label drugs, are available in cancer treatment or prevention or for managing side effects.

What are these therapies?

This group includes several types of therapies:

  • Off-label drugs not in standard use for cancer; off-label drugs are used for a purpose other than an approved use under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  • Neglected cancer therapies developed in mainstream science
  • Cancer therapies with special promise in clinical trials
  • Approaches developed by qualified researchers outside the US
  • Selected diagnostic techniques in these categories

At CancerChoices we call these therapies “ONCAs,” short for off-label, overlooked, or novel cancer approaches.

These therapies are not standard treatment, but off-label use of drugs is very common in cancer treatment.1Off-Label Drug Use in Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute. January 13, 2022. Viewed May 9, 2022. Even so, they may not be offered as options by either conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy or complementaryin cancer care, complementary care involves the use of therapies intended to enhance or add to standard conventional treatments; examples include supplements, mind-body approaches such as yoga or psychosocial therapy, and acupuncture medicine practitioners, even though substantial evidence is available for many of them.

More information

What are the benefits of using these therapies?

Some ONCAs may enhance conventionalthe cancer care offered by conventionally trained physicians and most hospitals; examples are chemotherapy, surgery, and radiotherapy treatments, improve survival, and reduce your risk of cancer or recurrence, while others may help manage side effects and symptoms such as pain or fatigue.

Some may help optimize your body terrainthe internal conditions of your body, including nutritional status, fitness, blood sugar balance, hormone balance, inflammation and more, creating an environment within your body less supportive of cancer development, growth, or spread.

These therapies may be used in addition to conventional treatments such as chemotherapy or radiotherapy. Some are used especially with cancer types that don’t respond well to conventional treatments. Many ONCAs are still under investigation for uses in cancer, with some showing special promise in clinical trials.

Specific information about the use, evidence, cost, and more is listed in each therapy review.

Are they safe?

These therapies range from fairly safe to risky. All prescription drugs involve the need for professional medical supervision. We list specific information about the safety, access, and more in each therapy review.

If you choose to explore these therapies, we strongly encourage you to seek guidance from a licensed professional who can help you choose the off-label and other novel therapies that are right for you and that are safe to use with your other therapies.

How do I access these therapies?

Some are readily available at low cost, but others may involve considerable expense and perhaps travel for access. We list specific information for each ONCA therapy in our reviews.

Medicare and many insurance companies pay for off-label drugs for cancer treatment as long as the off-label uses are listed in an approved compendiuma collection of drug summaries put together by experts who have reviewed data about the drug’s use in patients.2Off-Label Drug Use in Cancer Treatment. National Cancer Institute. January 13, 2022. Viewed May 9, 2022.

Resources

How to Starve Cancer

Jane McClelland’s directory of doctors familiar with her protocol using ONCAs as part of a comprehensive individualized care plan

Directory of doctors

Authors

Maria Williams

Research and Communications Consultant
View profile

Maria Williams is a research and communications consultant who brings over 15 years’ experience in research, consumer education, and science communication to CancerChoices. She has worked primarily in public health and environmental health.

Maria Williams Research and Communications Consultant

Nancy Hepp, MS

Lead Researcher and Program Manager
View profile

Ms. Hepp is a researcher and communicator who has been writing and editing educational content on varied health topics for more than 20 years. She serves as lead researcher, program manager, and writer for CancerChoices. Her graduate work in research and cognitive psychology, her master’s degree in instructional design, and her certificate in web design have all guided her in writing and presenting information for a wide variety of audiences and uses. Nancy’s service as faculty development coordinator in the Department of Family Medicine at Wright State University also provided experience in medical research, plus insights into medical education and medical care from the professional’s perspective.

Nancy Hepp, MS Lead Researcher and Program Manager

Reviewer

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS

Senior Clinical Consultant
View profile

Laura Pole is senior clinical consultant for CancerChoices. Laura is an oncology clinical nurse specialist who has been providing integrative oncology clinical care, navigation, consultation, and education services for over 40 years. She is the co-creator and co-coordinator of the Integrative Oncology Navigation Training at Smith Center for Healing and the Arts in Washington, DC. Laura also manages the “Media Watch Cancer News That You Can Use” listserv for Smith Center/Commonweal. In her role as a palliative care educator and consultant, Laura has served as statewide Respecting Choices Faculty for the Virginia POST (Physician Orders for Scope of Treatment) Collaborative as well as provided statewide professional education on palliative and end-of-life care for the Virginia Association for Hospices and Palliative Care.

For CancerChoices, Laura curates content and research, networks with clinical and organizational partners, brings awareness and education of integrative oncology at professional and patient conferences and programs, and translates research into information relevant to the patient experience as well as clinical practice.

Laura sees her work with CancerChoices as a perfect alignment of all her passions, knowledge and skills in integrative oncology care. She is honored to serve you.

Laura Pole, RN, MSN, OCNS Senior Clinical Consultant

Last update: February 15, 2022

CancerChoices provides science-informed reviews of integrative cancer therapies, helping patients and professionals explore and integrate the best combination of conventional and complementary therapies for each person.

References[+]