Journal of Nonlocality and Remote Mental Interactions, Vol. I Nr. 1, January 2002

Preliminary Studies of

the Effect of Qigong Therapy on Cancer

Kevin Chen, Ph.D. MPH

UMDNJ - New Jersey Medical School

Binhui He

President, World Institute for Self Healing, Inc. (USA)


Director, Qigong Anti-Cancer Research Center

Chinese Society of Qigong Science (China)

A Presentation at

Comprehensive Cancer Care 2001:

Integrating Alternative and Complementary Therapies

October 19-21, 2001,

Hyatt Regency Crystal City, Arlington, VA

Abstract: This is a presentation of medical Qigong applications to cancer therapy.

A number of controlled scientific studies are reviewed, including in-vitro, in-vivo

and clinical studies. In addition, several case histories and the authors' own

exploratory studies with external Qi are included.


Background on Qigong Therapy for Cancer

A Brief Overview of Research Studies

Our Exploratory Studies

Discussion and Comments


What is Qigong?

Qigong is a general term for a large variety of traditional Chinese energy exercises and therapies. There is no consistent definition on what Qigong is in the academic field, but Qigong is generally considered as "a self-training method or process through Qi (vital energy) and Yi (consciousness or intention) cultivation to achieve the optimal state of both body and mind." (Lin, 1997).

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) posits the existence of a subtle energy (Qi) circulating throughout the entire human body. When strengthened or balanced, it can improve health and ward off or slow the progress of disease. TCM considers sickness or pain a result of the Qi blockage or unbalanced Qi energy in the body. All TCM therapies -- herbs, acupuncture, massage, and Qigong -- are based on this philosophy.

There are thousands of different forms of Qigong in China, and most of them are not designed for healing purposes, but for preventive health. Historically, Qigong can be roughly divided into five major traditions: the Confucian, the Buddhism, the Taoism, medicine and martial arts. Each discipline has its own set of goals, methods and forms. Although most Qigong may bring health benefits to some degree, medical Qigong (a small portion of Qigong) was the only one specially developed for treating and curing disease.

Medical Qigong refers to the Qigong forms used by TCM practitioners with emphasis on how to use vital energy (Qi) to take control of illnesses or get rid of diseases, as well as how to prevent them. Although Qigong is considered mainly a self-training method, the Qi emission (or external Qigong) has always been part of the medical qigong practice in the attempt to help others to regain health. Therefore, there are differences between internal Qigong training and external Qigong therapy in the history and development of medical Qigong.

Internal Qigong training refers to Qigong practice or cultivation by oneself to achieve the optimal health for both mind and body. This is the major component in medical Qigong practice.

External Qigong therapy refers to the process by which a Qigong practitioner directs his intention, or emits his Qi energy, to help others break Qi blockages and induce the sick Qi out of the body so as to relieve pain, get rid of disease, or balance the Qi flow.

Cancer Patients Practice Qigong

Although there might be some cases of cancer recovery reported in many Qigong forms, most Qigong schools or clinic in China generally do not take patients with cancer due to their high mortality rate. For example, the largest medical Qigong facility in China - Huaxia Zhi-Neng Qigong Clinic and Training Center in Qinhuang Island -- does not admit any patients with cancer after having a cancer patient died in their facility. However, two Qigong forms in China have challenged cancer openly: Guo-Lin New Qigong and Chinese Taiji Five-Element Qigong (a form of medical Qigong recommended by the Chinese Ministry of Health).

Guo-Lin New Qigong was created by Ms. Guo Lin, a late-stage cancer patient who recovered from cancer by practicing Qigong by herself. Many cancer-recovery cases were reported by those who practice Guo-Lin Qigong, but most practitioners of Guo-Lin New Qigong mainly used Qigong as a supplementary therapy to the conventional treatments or other therapies (Huang et al. 1996).

Taiji Five-Element Qigong is a form created by master Binhui He in response to the fact that modern medicine has failed to provide a cure for many chronic diseases, and that many drugs used to treat these diseases have long-term side effects. The Chinese Society of Qigong Science appointed Mr. He as the director of the Qigong Anti-Cancer Research Center in 1993 after it verified some of the media reports that late-stage cancer patients hadrecovered completely by practicing this form of Qigong,. Mr. He then started a formal clinic exploration of Qigong anti-cancer therapy in his Qigong training center.

About 5,000 patients with middle or later stage cancer, most of whom were turned away by the mainstream tumor hospitals due to lack of medical value, participated in the intensive medical Qigong training. With medical check-up before and after the Qigong training in the same tumor hospital, most of these patients achieved significant short-term improvement in their health and cancer recovery by doing Qigong practice alone without any other conventional therapies. Furthermore, a large proportion of them became cancer-free in the last 5 to 9 years (Zhang, 1997).

Below are some examples of Qigong-Assisted Cancer Recovery:

Ms. Yun Liao, 60, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1992. After having surgery to remove both breasts and multiple sessions of radiotherapy and chemotherapy, she was informed by the tumor hospital (after ECT) that the metastatic cancer of bone had spread to the entire body, and was turned away by the hospital for further treatment due to the late-stage situation. She started practicing Five-Element Qigong without any other therapies. Six months later, her condition had dramatic changed - ECT showed that her metastatic cancer in bone had disappeared completely, while other chronic diseases she had had before contracting cancer (such as diabetes, fatty liver, prolapse of lumbar intervertebral disc etc.), had all disappeared without taking any medicine. She has lived a healthy life for the past 8 years (Liao, 1997).

Mr. Maoshun Shen, 68, was first diagnosed as having liver cancer in 1989, and received different conventional therapies and three separate surgeries within three years. The cancer came back sooner and sooner after each surgery, which removed the entire left lobe of the liver, and a large portion of the right lobe. In 1992, when the liver cancer came back 3.5 months after the third surgery, he started to learn to practice Five-Element Qigong. Medical records indicated that his late-stage relapsed liver cancer disappeared completely after 4 months of Qigong practice without any other therapy. Since then he has lived a cancer-free life for 8 years, and his hepatocirrhosis and hepatitis B also disappeared without any medicine.

Ms. Manli Liu, 36, was diagnosed with malignant intracerebral glioma in 1994 (tumor size 43 x 36 x 39 mm by MRI, with a lot of fluid and swelling). Gama-ray radiation was used to treat the glioma, but could not kill all tumor cells due to the large size of glioma and serious side-effects. She started practicing Five-Element Qigong. One month later, MRI showed some significant improvement. Since then she has practiced Qigong daily and quit using any other therapy. Regular checkups at the same hospital showed that her glioma disappeared completely one and half a year later (MRI results available).

Mr. Zhou, Min, a salesman, was diagnosed with colon cancer metastasis to lymph nodes in the abdominal cavity in 1991. Surgery could not remove all tumors while his physical weakness did not allow for further chemotherapy. He started Five-Element Qigong training in 1992, completely recovered in 2 months, and has lived a cancer-free life for 9 years.

Ms. Hong Yinquan was diagnosed with stomach cancer in 1991, relapsed six months after surgery, with metastasis to the entire body. The family was told that she could at most live for one month. However, the family did not give up, and carried her to the Qigong training center and let her participate in the intensive Qigong training in May 1992. She continued Qigong practice for 6 months, completely recovered and lived a healthier life to this day. She refuses to go back to the hospital for checkups.

Reports of such miraculous or unexpected recovery cases are common in Qigong magazines and journals in China. Scientists started to wonder whether Qigong would really be effective in treating cancer....



Can Qigong practice really have a therapeutic effect on cancer? It is well known that some cancer patients may experience spontaneous remission without any therapy. Scientists in China wondered whether the Qigong treatment was just a placebo effect.

Due to various reasons, most systematic research has been focused on in vitro study of different cancer cell culture, or in vivo study where cancer cells were injected into a live animal to observe the inhibitory effect of Qigong therapy. While clinic studies have mostly been case observations by medical professionals, no double-blinded clinical trial could be found in the literature.

In Vitro Studies with External Qigong Effect

The typical study of the in-vitro type involved randomly dividing the laboratory-prepared cancer cells or other cultures into different groups with one group being treated with external Qigong, plus one or two control groups. Sometimes, one group was treated by sham Qigong for the same amount of time. The involved cancer cells varied tremendously, including human breast cancer cell lines, erythroleukemia (K562), promyelocytic leukemia, nasopharynglioma, nasopharyngeal carcinoma (CNE-2), SGC-7901 gastric adenocarcinoma, spleen cells of mice, lung tumor cell line (LA-795), etc. Most of the studies have demonstrated the inhibitory effect of Qigong on the growth of these studied cancer cells in comparison with the control and sham-treated groups.


1. Chen XJ et al (1990). "Effects of emitted qi on inhibition of NPC cell line and DNA synthesis." Using NPC (nasopharynegal carcinoma) cell line, the emitted qi (external qi) was shown to inhibit the cell growth and DNA synthesis in the cancer cell line, which suggested qi may be a useful tool for treating cancer.

2. Cao, et al. (1993) "Inhibition of human nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells in vitro by emitted qi and gamma ray." By using a nasopharyngeal carcinoma cell line, irradiated by 2 Gy Y-ray and then treated by the emitted Qi, they found the Qi was able to kill or damage the carcinoma cell cultures.

3. Chen YF et al (1992). "Studies of the "external qi" effect on the ConA mediated agglutination reaction of human pulmonary adenocarcinoma cell SPC-A-1,"looked at the effect of waiqi on the agglutination of tumor cells and on glycoproteins expressed on cell membrane (it has been shown previously that the type and distribution of glycoprotein on the cell surface can influence the degree of agglutination, which is generally smaller for normal cells). The glycoprotein changes were displayed by SDS-PAGE with glycoprotein specific Schiff’s staining method. After many experiments, it was found that tumor cells treated with"external qi" demonstrated both reduced agglutination and surface glycoprotein changes compared to control tumor cells.

4. Feng LD, Qian JQ, Chen SQ et al. 1988. "A Study of the effect of the emitted Qi of Qigong on human carcinoma cells." Dr. Feng Lida and her colleagues at China Immunology Research Center (Beijing) may be one of the first research groups to conduct studies on the effects of the emitted Qi of Qigong on human carcinoma cells (Feng et al. 1988). They used the techniques of tissue culture, cytogenetics and electron microscope to study the effect of external Qi on the Hale cells and SGC-7901 human gastric adenocarcinoma cells. They repeated the experiment with the Hale cells for 20 times under the identical conditions (treatment sample exposed to external Qi for 20 minutes), and found that the survival rate of the Hale cells in the Qigong group was in average 69.3% of that of control, i.e. 30.7% of the cells were killed in the 20 minutes exposure to external Qi. The electron microscope showed that degeneration and swelling took place in some of the cells exposed to emitted Qi. The experiment with human gastric adenocarcinoma cells was repeated 41 times under the same condition (1 hour exposure to external Qi of Qigong), in which the average survival rate of the SGC-7901 cells was 74.98% of that in the control, i.e. the average destruction rate was 25.02% (p < .01). The total abnormality rate of the chromosomes in Qigong group (5.39%) was significantly higher than that in the control (1.40%).

5. Hu, ZL et al. (1989) "Observation of Qigong inducing terminal granulocytic differentiation of the human promyelocytic leukemia cell line, HL-60." The team incubated fresh HL-60 cells in short-term suspension cultures in the presence of external qigong. The results indicated that terminal granulocytic differentiation of only promyelocytic leukemia cells is induced by qigong therapy, but this effect did not appear in the control group.

In Vivo (Animal ) Studies of Qigong Therapy

The in-vivo (animal) studies of Qigong therapy for cancer treatment are more sophisticated and more closely resemble human applications. The typical study of this type consisted of injecting tumors or cancerous cells into mice or rats, then randomly dividing the experimental animals into various groups with one group treated by Qigong for certain periods of time. The control group could be non-treatment or sham treatment. The majority of these studies concentrated on the survival rate of the animal itself or the rate of tumor size reduction. Most studies reported that the Qigong-treated group demonstrated significantly reduced tumor growth and/or longer survival lives among the cancer-infected animals.


Chen XJ et al. (1993), "Double-blind test of emitted qi on tumor formation of nasopharynegeal carcinoma cell line in nude mice." The team used a nasopharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma cell line (CNE-2), then treated it with emitted qi and later inoculated the treated and non-treated carcinoma cell into 2 group of mice. The result showed that the tumor formation of the treated cells was inhibited by an impressive rate of 100%.

Lu XY et al. (1996) "Studies on the curative effect of the emitted Qi on tumor." H22 ascites liver cancer was injected into two groups of mice, one treated by Qigong, and other as control. After 7 daily Qigong exposure (30 minute each day), the body weight, abdominal width, ascites volume and liver weight of the Qigong treated group were significantly smaller by 42.5% (p < .05), 15.7% (p < .02), 38.3% (p < .05) and 24.6% (p < .01) respectively than those of the control group.

Qian SS et al. (1993). "Influence of emitted Qi on cancer growth, metastasis and survival time of the host." Tumor models were formed in mice by transplanting U27 or M04 cancer cells into subcutaneous tissues of the right armpit. The mice with cancer were randomly divided into two groups - Qigong and control - with the exact same treatment. From day 2 to day 7, the Qigong group were treated by external Qi for 10 to 30 minutes, but not the control group. In experiment l, the average tumor volume of the qigong group (31 mice, 2.25~5.35 cm3) was obviously lower than the control group (32 mice, 6.32~10.02 cm3, p< 0.001). In experiment 2, the metastatic rate (l/l6) of lymph nodes in the Qigong group was significantly lower than the control group (6/15; p < 0.05). In experiment 3, the average survival time (35.4 day) of mice in the Qigong group (10 mice) was significantly longer than the control group (10 mice, 30.5 days, p < 0.002).

Studies on Human Cancer Patients

Not many clinical studies have been done on Qigong therapy for cancer. Most published research was based on Guo-Lin New Qigong in combination with other therapies. No double-blind clinical trial was found in the literature, although most of the studies did have a control group. Among the clinical research studies reviewed, it seems that there is a consistent finding that the group treated with Qigong therapy had significant improvement and/or a better survival rate than those treated with conventional method alone. Some reported complete remission from late-stage cancer or metastasized cancer (Cong & Lu 1993; Guan 1990; Huang et al. 1996).

1.) Zhang et al. (1997) of the Beijing Miyun Capital Tumor Hospital used "Self-Control Qigong Therapy" to treat 1,648 cases of various types of cancer; he achieved significant improvement for 32.4% of patients, while 59.2% showed some effectiveness (8.4% showed no effect). This may be the largest number of cancer patients with Qigong therapy observed in a hospital, but no control was designed or collected in this hospital-based observation.

2.) Zheng Rongrong of Shanghai Qigong Academy used Qigong combined with Chinese herbs to treat 100 cases of advanced cancer patients. Results showed that comprehensive Qigong therapy had effectively prolonged patients’ lives. Among the patients treated by Qigong therapy, the one-year survival rate for lung cancer patients was 83%, and the five-year survival rate for lung cancer patients was 17% (but 7% in control group). The five-year survival rate for colon cancer patients was 23% (but 12% in control group). The median survival for liver cancer patients was 22.7 months, compared to the 3.5 months in control group. (Huang 1997)

3.) Tianjing Medical College and Tianjing University have treated 370 cases of cancer patient with both Qigong practice and external Qigong therapy since 1979; 80% of patients reported significant improvement. But no control information was reported. (Huang 1997)

4.) Huang et al. (1996) reported that thousand of cancer patients who practiced Guolin New Qigong lived much longer than their doctors expected, and some reported complete remission.

None of these observational studies have offered a possible mechanism for Qigong anti-cancer therapy.

In short, although the research design may not be perfect in many cases, most of scientific studies have confirmed the inhibitory effect of external Qigong therapy on cancer growth, while Qigong practice was shown to enhance the body’s immune functions.

C. Our Exploratory Studies

I. The Inhibitory Effects of Qigong Emission on Transplanted Hepatocarcinoma in Mice (Chen et al. 1997)

Objective: To explore the effect of external Qigong emission from a Qigong master on transplanted hepatic cancer in mice.

Methods: 30 nude mice, iv injected with hepatocarcinoma, were randomly assigned into three groups: the control group (no-treatment), the imitation group (sham treatment) and the Qigong group (treated by Qigong master).

Qigong treatment involved a Qigong master who emitted external Qi towards the mouse cage at a distance of 8-10cm for 10 minutes, every other day, for a total of four treatments. The mice were then sacrificed on day 10 or 11, the liver cancer mass was removed, measured and weighted in a blind fashion.

Results: The same experiment was conducted three times. Compared with the control group, the tumor inhibitory rates of Qigong treated group were 70.3%, 79.7%, and 78.7%, respectively (p < 0.0001) in three separate trials. The inhibitory rates of sham treated group were 9.5%, 2.6%, and 2.5%, respectively (p > 0.05). Morphological alterations in Qigong treated mice include decreased cell volume of most cancer cells; nuclear condensation, nuclear fragmentation; decreased ratio of nucleus and cytoplasm; swollen mitochondria with poorly organized mitochondrial cristae, some vacuolated; many apoptotic bodies in extra cellular space.

Table 1. Inhibitory Effects of Qigong on Transplanted Hepatocarcinoma in mice

* t test in comparison with the control group.

Experiment 1:

Experiment 2:

Table 2. Comparison of Group Means on Day 9 and Day 11 (Study 1)

II. Effect of External Qigong on Lymphoma Growth in Mice

Experiment 3:

Figure 1. Comparison of Cancer Tumors in Three Experiments

of the Effects of Qigong on Transplanted Hepatocarcinoma in Mice

Objectives: To explore the effect of external Qigong emission on the in vivo growth of transplantable murine lymphoma cells in mice.

Methods: 30 SJL/J mice were iv injected with lymphoma cells that localize and exhibit aggressive growth in the lymphoid tissues of untreated syngeneic recipients, and then divided into 3 groups: Qigong treatment (administered by a Qigong master), sham treatment, and no-treatment (control). The Qigong-treated group was exposed to 10 minutes of external Qi emission at a distance of 15-20 cm, for a total of 4 to 9 sessions. The sham group received the same number of treatments from a person without knowledge of Qigong, who imitated the motions of the Qigong master. The control group got no treatment at all. In study 1, mice were sacrificed at 9 or 11 days after tumor cell injection. In study 2, mice were sacrificed at 10 and 13 days after injection. Tumor growth in lymph nodes (LN) was estimated by LN weight expressed as a percentage of total body weight.

Results: Study 1: LN from mice in the Qigong group were significantly smaller than LN from mice in either the control group or in the sham treatment group (p<.05), suggesting that there was less tumor growth in the Qigong-treated mice.

Study 2: using the same design as study 1. Although the same pattern found in study 1 emerged (LN ratio from mice in the Qigong group was smaller than that in either the control group or in the sham group), these results did not reach statistical significance, partially due to larger variances in all groups in this study.

A third study was planned. Due to lack of funding and resource, the study has not been done so far.

Discussion: These preliminary results, while still inconclusive, suggested that Qigong treatment might negatively influence the growth of lymphoma cells. Further studies with more repeated trials or different tumor models are needed to verify the effects of external Qigong on tumor growth in mice.

Table 3. Comparison of Group Means by Day 10 and 13 (Study 2)

Note: Numbers in parentheses are standard deviations.

SNK and Duncan tests are applied in post hoc tests of group differences: identical superscript letters indicate significant differences between groups (p < .05)

Effect of External Qi On PPT-I Expression in Breast Cancer Cells

Objectives: To explore the effects of external Qi emission on PPT-I Expression in four types of breast cancer cells

Method: One normal mammary epithelial cell line and four breast cancer cell lines (BC-123; BC 125; BC-HT-20; BC-T47D) were grown to confluence in four 6-well plates, one plate for each treatment condition: Qigong treatment, sham treatment, incubator control, room temperature control. In the Qi treatment condition, the Qigong master emitted Qi directly to the cell culture plates for a period of 10 minutes from a distance of approximately 12-15 inches. The "incubator control" plate was kept in an incubator in the lab, and the "room temperature" cells were left on a lab bench in the same lab, both while the Qigong treatment was performed in another room about 10m from the lab. The "sham" treatment was performed by an individual who had no skills in Qigong, and who imitated the sounds and movements of the Qigong master. Following the period of treatment, all plates were re-incubated for 16 hours. Total RNA was extracted by standard procedure and then used in quantitative RT-PCR to determine the levels of beta-PPT-I.

Results: there is no significant difference between two control groups, neither between sham treated cells and controls. However, there is an obvious downward trend among the BC cells treated by Qigong. Except for the BC-T47D cells (last row), Qigong treated cells have consistently lower growth than the cells in any other groups. Compared to sham-treated cells, the closest control in this design, in all 8 trials (4 different BC cells in two trials) the Qigong-treated cells had slower growth than the Sham-treated cells. This could occur by chance only at p = 0.0038 in a cumulative binomial probability distribution.

Table 4. Effects of Qigong Treatment on PPT-I Expression

in Breast Cancer Cells

(Measured by count of molecules of b-PPT-I/mg total RNA)

D. Discussion and Comments

Abundant Evidence and Consistent Findings

There seems to be considerable evidence suggesting that external Qigong therapy has an inhibitory effect on cancer growth, both in vitro and in vivo studies, even though some of the protocol designs are in need of improvement and some studies need to be replicated by more laboratories. However, there seems to be a lack of basic interest in further research in this direction from the general scientific community, perhaps because it is hard to imagine how it could work, or because no mechanism has been offered so far.

Implication for Qigong Anti-Cancer Therapy

Since the Qi (vital energy) emitted by Qigong masters in the laboratory is in principle similar to the Qi cultivated during Qigong practice, the research evidence suggest that Qigong anti-cancer therapy is not simply a psychological effect, but has a scientific basis in inhibiting tumor growth. Qigong should be seriously studied as a supplementary therapy for cancer treatment.

Advantage of Qigong Anti-Cancer Therapy. Qigong is:

- easy to learn (everyone can do it), and because it requires the patient’s active participation in the healing process, it eliminates the sense of passive hopelessness often associated with life-threatening conditions

- safe and reliable - it has no side effects, and there are no problems with misdiagnosis or mistreatment

- a holistic adjustment of the entire body, treating not only the cancer but all other chronic conditions at the same time

- a completely new direction for future medicine , pointing the way toward a drug-free/multiple recovery therapy

- an approach that breaks the myth of the incurable disease, showing that late-stage cancer is truly curable

There are, however, still many obstacles in the path of further research:

- Lack of resources - little funding has been available for CAM research.

- Lack of support from the scientific community, for fear of losing credibility among peers and funding agents. Scientists, like other people, tend to believe only what they consider "reasonable" or "acceptable," and show a lot of prejudice and discrimination against non-conventional medicine or non-approved therapies like Qigong.

- Lack of basic training and knowledge among scientists: those scientists who are interested in Qigong research may not understand the basic rules or laws of Qigong, while those who know Qigong lack research experience.

- It is considered a very risky decision for a medical scientist to make the career transition from conventional scientific research to CAM research. You may lose the opportunities to publish (very limited journals in this area), to get grants and to get promotions, or you may even lose your job if you cannot get a large grant and publications in a timely manner.


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