The Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre

By Dr. Christine Davis, B.Sc., Naturopathic Doctor, Magna Health Centre, Aurora, Ontario

Today, it is challenging to find someone whose life hasn’t been touched by the effects of cancer. Cancer is immensely prevalent and it permeates all cultural and social divides. Attorneys such as the ones found at have been protecting cancer victims for years. The Canadian Cancer Society estimated there were 177,800 new cases of cancer (excluding 74,100 non-melanoma skin cancers) and 75,000 deaths from cancer in Canada in 2011.[1]  Despite this immense impact, cancer still poses a massive health risk. Not only is cancer a debilitating disease, but cancer treatments are often uncomfortable and incapacitating.

Are we doing all we can to help to prevent cancer and keep those people with cancer as healthy and comfortable as possible? Are we taking the necessary steps to prevent cancer before it takes hold?

There are ways that we can help to make cancer treatment less debilitating and cut down the probability of recurrence. I think we need to look outside the box of traditional cancer prevention and cancer care and ask how we can better serve this population.

“Integrative cancer care enhances conventional therapies and bolsters the prevention of recurrence. In addition, integrativeoncology provides systematic strategies to prevent cancer through lifestyle modification, such as nutrition and exercise. Recognizing synergy from a whole systems approach, integrative oncology provides new models for dealing with the epidemic of cancer.”

-Stephen Sagar, BSc (Hons), MB, BS, MRCP, FRCR, FRCPC, Radiation Oncologist, Past President, Society of Integrative Oncology, Professor of Oncology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario

In November 2011, the first oncology center in Eastern Canada was opened: the Ottawa Integrative Cancer Centre (OICC), a not- for-profit organization that is governed by the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine. The OICC seeks to treat the whole person, using complementary therapies alongside conventional treatments. It works to provide education about prevention, support during treatment and prevention of cancer recurrence. The OICC works to optimize patients’ wellness, using innovative integrative treatment approaches.

The OICC provides evidence-informed integrative and preventative cancer care, research and education across the spectrum of prevention and survivorship. OICC emphasizes quality of life, care of the spirit, and active prevention of the disease.

Naturopathic doctor Gillian Flower with a patient at the OICC

The OICC is not only a center for clinical practice and education, but also a research facility striving to find the most effective and innovative evidence-based strategies to manage cancer.  Unlike pharmaceutical companies, natural health product manufacturers and practitioners of alternate therapies do not have the money to fund large clinical trials. This has often been a major deterrent, as the language of the conventional medical community is based on Randomized Clinical Trials.

The OICC is taking the lead on this, providing clarity and confidence to those searching for alternatives and sifting through the maze of alternative options to better improve patients’ well-being and to optimize their health. The OICC is also a trusted resource for health care practitioners looking to provide answers to their cancer patients on the safety and efficacy of the complementary treatments they are undergoing. Lack of understanding and often fear in the conventional medical community can deter patients from getting the alternative treatments they desire. The OICC is providing a model of integration that can be extrapolated to the entire medical community.

“I applaud the OICC’s commitment to being a leader in integrative oncology research. From interactions with mutual patients, I realize that the clinical care provided by the OICC has real value to the people under our care, and that this care can and should be expanded to others. With the research that we’ve done together already and the approach you take in science and clinical care, I believe the OICC will achieve great prominence as a valuable resource for patients.”

-Andrew J.E. Seely, MD, PhD, FRCSC, Associate Scientist, Ottawa Health Research Institute, Associate Professor of Surgery, University of Ottawa, Research Director, Division of Thoracic Surgery and Critical Care Medicine, The Ottawa Hospital

Seminars focus on information about nutrition, lifestyle factors, and stress management. OICC also works with the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation, providing workshops, seminars and online learning.  As well, the OICC has a special focus on environmental contributors to cancer and educates people on how to avoid this exposure.

The team of regulated health care practitioners at the OICC is truly integrative.  Specialties include naturopathic oncology, family therapy, physiotherapy, psychiatry, nutrition, acupuncture, massage therapy, exercise therapy and yoga. The OICC helps to decrease the side-effects of cancer treatment; improve energy, well-being and overall quality of health; balance the body’s immune system; and support the mind, body and spirit in the healing process. The OICC uses natural non-toxic therapies in collaboration with allied health care providers, medical oncologists, radiation oncologists and surgeons.

As well, the OICC seeks to bridge the gap between conventional and complementary oncology services. It is estimated that over 50% of cancer patients embrace complementary therapies, but most don’t communicate choices with conventional oncologists. The OICC has partnered with the Ottawa Regional Cancer Foundation and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute to make integrative medicine a reality.

The OICC Grand Opening with 2012 Silver Olympic Medalist & Naturopathic Doctor Rachelle Viinberg, Colin Carrie, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, and Paul Dewar, MP for Ottawa Centre

Dugald Seely speaking at the Grand Opening with Colin Carrie, Paul Dewar, and Rabbi Bulka

Murray Foster Singing "Open Arms," a song written for the OICC. The music video can be found here.

An Overview video of the OICC visit

For more information on how to become a patient at the OICC, cancer resources or cancer research, visit



Canadian Cancer Society: Canadian Cancer Statistics 2011, page 4