Robert Zieve, MD - Integrative Cancer Physician Robert Zieve, MD

Modern Oncology is in a crisis today. How can we support  the building of a bridge between the mechanistic and reductionist side of conventional oncology and the imaginative and observations side of integrative cancer medicine?

We are today in the midst of a second birth of medicine, and this is happening in integrative cancer medicine also.

The birth of the way medicine is practiced today is very old, and not the subject of this article. Suffice to say that Modern Oncology is in a crisis today. A growing number of people do not trust that modern medical techniques or therapies can help them get better, or that they can afford them. The Institution that is Medicine is caught up in the webs of mechanistic and reductionist thinking, which is often coupled with a strong streak of judgment and materialistic greed, administering treatments that are often ineffective in helping people heal from chronic diseases.

Modern medicine excels at treating emergencies and in surgery. Indeed, the general public knows this. Many studies reveal that people are seeking out alternative medicine, from chiropractic to naturopathic physicians, to acupuncture. It is why many health food stores sell significant amounts of supplements.

How does modern oncology reflect these realities? It too is not immune to the mechanistic thinking and treatments that are often rigid formulas, often are ineffective in driving back systemic metastases, or in preventing localized cancers from spreading, or in leading to higher quality of life for many people.

One key question is whether the US or any country can afford modern oncology now or in the future? The number of people diagnosed with a cancer is growing worldwide. Conventional oncology and surgical oncology treatments are growing in price. This is especially true with the growing number of biological cancer drugs, often called monoclonal antibodies, many of which are becoming so expensive that physicians and hospitals have difficulty getting approval for payment for their use. To say nothing of the number of people with metastases from improperly treated primary cancers.

What are the steps in the birth process?

First there is fertilization, then there is gestation, and then birth.

Are we witnessing the birth of a more human and higher form of medicine within modern medicine, a form that would help to redeem the soul of modern medicine that has become possessed by mechanistic and greed driven thinking and practice? It is obvious that the process of fertilization for the rebirth of medicine has been developing for centuries, almost parallel to the entrenchment of modern medicine.

What is this higher medicine? Today it is called by many names: integrative medicine, alternative and complementary medicine, holistic medicine, Functional medicine, and naturopathic medicine .

How can we in integrative cancer medicine support this birthing process? One of the key constituents of this birth is the concept of being partners with our patients and our colleagues. Too many of our patients tell us daily of how their physicians are intolerant when their patients even ask questions or have done some research online about their illness and want to help it. Being a partner means an invitation to participate actively in one’s own care. As most of us know, this is not part of the milieu of practice in modern oncology.. Being a partner has its responsibilities, for both patient and practitioner. For the patient, it means making the needed lifestyle changes to “ get out of the way” so that our bodies and immune systems can do what they know how to do, which is to heal.

Patients with cancer are faced with the reality of the threshold of death, whether they have a serious cancer or not. They become aware of the possibility of death. This is what we can call a Threshold awakening. Today the world is teetering on this threshold, with many people facing the possibility of death from starvation, murder, cancer, or other types of destruction.

Building the Bridge

The question for each of us is: How can we support the building of a bridge between the mechanistic and reductionist side of conventional oncology and the imaginative and observational side of integrative cancer medicine.

This indeed is our task today. It takes a lot of work, especially internal, to live on both sides of this threshold. This is because there are many forces arrayed against both patients and practitioners who have the courage to face this threshold and stand on both sides of it, with all the transformative energies this requires of all of us. . These are the forces of inertia, deception, greed, fear, and mechanistic reductionist thinking that would keep things as they are and have always been. We are all familiar with these forces in the world as we can see them behind current events. We all suffer if this continues as it is and has been.

We are each and all of us witness to the changes at hand. What is a witness? The nature of the Witness is a special capacity within a person that is capable of linking the physical and measurable, such as lab tests, scans, and biopsies, with a more open minded, imaginative, and intuitive thinking that is called for today in the world and is modern oncology. Being a Witness and participating in these changes requires one to develop and maintain an awareness on many levels simultaneously. Doing this requires a lot of work. I know this sounds like gobbledygook to many who may read this, but I am sure many will recognize the truth in these statements.

What are these levels? Most indigenous cultures believe(d) that which is called the True Human has deep connections with Nature. Many researchers and practitioners in integrative oncology, including Bharrat Agarwall at M.D. Anderson, and Donnie Yance of the Mederi Foundation, are well aware of these realities. Indeed, many of our chemotherapy agents are derived from the world of Nature that our civilization is rapidly destroying. Much of what we use in integrative cancer medicine derives from the wisdom of indigenous cultures. This includes botanicals, including cannabis,in many cultures, acupuncture (China and Japan), castor oil packs (Ayurvedic medicine from India), therapeutic baths, heat therapies, or what we call in our modern parlance hyperthermia, derived from the wisdom of many cultures.

So, how can we assist in this Birthing Process that today is known as Integrative Cancer Medicine? Another way of asking this is: How can we serve as effective midwives for this marriage of modern oncology with what often derisively and condescendingly is called ‘alternative’ cancer medicine? Many patients, and most of us, feel a deep yearning for this second birth, for the limitless energy and awareness and the feeling that we are doing Good, that this brings to us and our patients.

Perhaps we can do this by learning to face death, much like many of our patients have to on one level or another. Transforming the soul of modern oncology requires us to learn to lie simultaneously in two worlds: modern oncology and integrative cancer medicine. This is a type of death process. It is akin in nature to the caterpillar becoming the chrysalis and then emerging as the butterfly.

Doing this means going against the grain, by developing capacities that help us swim upstream against the strong currents of psychological, political, and economic patterning in modern medical oncology. It means learning how to face the fear of death in different ways, whether these be a loss of status or hospital privileges, a loss of financial rewards, or disapproval from former colleagues.

To do this requires courage. And the strength to do this can come from a strong community of integrative cancer medicine practitioners and patients.

We need leaders who can facilitate this process. Following are some of the characteristics of leaders:

  • They are courageous and willing to take risks when needed
  • They inspire others to do their
  • They are skilled and capable in their art or profession
  • They are in a constant process of dealing with their own issues, striving to keep their own issues out of the roles they are
  • They are always looking to see how they can advance the cause of which they are a

Can we as both individuals and as a professional community bring these principles into our daily professional lives and into our local communities?

Healthy Medicine Academy is an organization dedicated to restoring trust in medicine and fostering social justice in health care. It has been part of a much bigger and largely unnoticed effort in this country and in the world. From billion-dollar nonprofits to single-person dot.causes, these groups collectively comprise the largest movement on earth, a movement that has no name, no leader, or location, and that has gone largely ignored by politicians and the media.

Like nature itself, it is organizing from the bottom up, in every city, town, and culture. and is emerging to be an extraordinary and creative expression of people’s needs worldwide.

We speak in integrative cancer medicine about the importance of the milieu. I wonder how much we consider the milieu in which oncology is practiced today, and how much it is influenced by current economic and political trends. How many of us have experienced the impact of the financial stress our patients feel when we ask them even to undergo a series of IV Vitamin C treatments, or a comprehensive oral program that we feel from our experience can greatly help them and give them a fighting chance–to say nothing of the not uncommon need for well chosen and administered chemotherapy.

To whom can we turn today for guidance in these transformative times in both society and in cancer medicine?

As Paul Hawken has stated: “You know what we pay attention to instead? All the institutional obstacles, and the resistance, and corruption, and financial chicanery, and on and on and on. And you look at that and you want to just jump off a bridge. And because you just see that, humans seem self serving, greedy, short sighted and violent. And if you just look at that, you just drink that potion, its toxic.”

Who will lead us in not only becoming better cancer medicine practitioners, but also in collaborating with others to create a sacred economics in medicine, and especially in the field of cancer. Charles Eisenstein’s book, Sacred Economics, offers some guidelines, for those who are inspired in these directions.

How can we as integrative cancer practitioners participate in the greater work of supporting changes in the field of cancer thinking and practice? In Science Set Free, Dr. Rupert Sheldrake, one of the world’s most innovative scientists, shows the ways in which science is being constricted by assumptions that have, over the years, hardened into dogmas. Such dogmas are not only limiting, but dangerous for the future of humanity.

According to the assumptions and dogma that Sheldrake discusses, all of reality is material or physical; the world is a machine, made up of inanimate matter; nature is purposeless; consciousness is nothing but the physical activity of the brain; free will is an illusion; God exists only as an idea in human minds, imprisoned within our skulls.

Sheldrake shows that materialist ideology is moribund; under its sway, increasingly expensive research is reaping diminishing returns while societies around the world pay the price. In the skeptical spirit of true science, Sheldrake turns the ten fundamental dogmas of materialism into exciting questions and shows how all of them open up startling new possibilities for discovery.

About Robert Zieve, MD

Robert Zieve, MD is one of the most experienced and well-trained physicians in integrative medicine in the US. Dr. Zieve has practiced holistic and integrative medicine for over thirty-five years. For the past 14 years, Dr. Zieve has specialized in cancer medicine. He is trained in and uses many aspects of integrative cancer medicine, including low dose high frequency chemo- therapy, IV Vitamin C therapy, cancer specific applications of herbs and nutrients and food programs , the broad range of lab tests often required when one has a cancer diagnosis. From 2008-2013, Dr. Zieve was the supervising physician at EuroMed Foundation national integrative cancer clinic in Phoenix, AZ, and also served as staff physician at An Oasis of Healing national integrative cancer clinic in Mesa, AZ.

Throughout the past 25 years, Dr. Zieve has been blessed with the opportunity to have stud- ied with some of the best minds and most experienced practitioners worldwide in integrative medicine and integrative cancer medicine. From 1983-2003, he also worked as a board-certified specialist in emergency medicine. Dr. Zieve was an instructor at the SW College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, AZ in the 1990’s.

Dr. Zieve is the author of two books: Healthy Medicine: A Guide to the Emergence of Sensible Comprehensive Care, and Beyond the Medical Meltdown: Working Together for Sustainable Health Care. He was interviewed for a chapter on his approach to integrative cancer medicine in the 2011 book, Defeat Cancer. Dr. Zieve is the Medical Director of Healthy Medicine Academy and the Editor-In-Chief of the Cancer Strategies Journal. He is the host of Healthy Medicine Ra- dio ( The show is listened to online worldwide through itunes.