Mistletoe extracts (Viscum album L., VAE) are among the most widely used integrative cancer care treatments, particularly in Europe. They are an old herbal remedy, but were introduced into cancer treatment in 1920 by Rudolf Steiner and Ita Wegman, founders of Anthroposophic Medicine. Viscum album is a hemiparasitic shrub, growing on different host trees. Different mistletoe preparations are available for the treatment of cancer (currently Abnobaviscum ® , Helixor ® , Iscador ® , Iscucin ® and Lektinol ® ). They are available from different host trees such as oak, apple, pine and others. They are applied parenteral, particularly subcutaneously, but also intravenously, intratumorally, intrapleurally, intraperitoneally and else.
Several pharmacologically active compounds have been isolated from VAE, such as mistletoe lectins (ML I, II and III), viscotoxins, oligo- and polysaccharides, lipophilic extracts and various others. The most prominent properties of VAE are their cytotoxic and growth-inhibiting effects, in vitro, on a variety of human tumour cell lines, lymphocytes and fibroblasts. The cytotoxic effects of VAE are mainly due to the apoptosis-inducing mistletoe lectins, while the viscotoxins induce necrotic cell death. VAE are also recognized for their immune-modulating activity: In vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated activation of monocytes/macrophages, granulocytes, natural killer (NK) cells, T-cells (especially T-helper-cells) and the induction of various cytokines. VAE also possess DNA stabilizing properties, they reduce chromosome damage and improve DNA repair. VAE show antiangiogenetic effects. In animals, VAE displays potent antitumor effects when administered either directly into the tumour or systemically.
Clinical effectiveness of mistletoe extracts in cancer has been investigated in a great number of studies, among these 43 prospective randomized controlled trials: They predominantly report significant clinical benefits. With regard to quality of studies and consistency of results, the best evidence concerning efficacy of mistletoe therapy exists for the improvement of quality of life and improved tolerability of cytoreductive therapies (chemotherapy, radiotherapy, surgery). Regarding survival, a well-designed randomized controlled trial has recently shown a highly significant benefit in advanced pancreatic cancer . Other studies showed similar results. Effectiveness seems to depend on the duration of the mistletoe therapy, in addition to factors relating to dosage, host tree and choice of preparation.
Tumour remissions have been repeatedly observed after local application of high dose mistletoe extracts. This finding is consistent with the preclinical research on cytotoxicity and treatment of tumors in animals. During customary low-dose mistletoe therapy, tumour remissions are rare exceptions. Tumor remissions have therefore been reported primarily in case series and single cases. Highly individualized and comprehensive treatment – individuallyadjusted and selected dosage, preparation, host tree, injection site, rhythm of administration, and supplementation with other interventions – is regarded to lead to far better health outcomes, according to highly experienced practitioners. This still needs to be investigated. Clinical application of mistletoe extracts is safe, even in high dosages.
Best overview on mistletoe therapy for cancer:
Viscum and chemotherapeutic drug interactions: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3893555/
http://believebig.org/what-is-mistletoe/ with link to Hopkins trial
Tröger W, Galun D, Reif M, Schumann A, Stankovic N, Milicevic M: Quality of life of patients with
advanced pancreatic cancer during treatment with mistletoe—a randomized controlled trial. Dtsch Arztebl Int 2014, 111:493-502
Tröger W, Galun D, Reif M, Schumann A, Stankovic N, Milicevic M: Viscum album [L.] extract therapy in patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer: a randomised clinical trial on overall survival. Eur J Cancer 2013, 49:3788-3797
Mansky PJ, Wallerstedt DB, Sannes TS, Stagl J, Johnson LL, Blackman MR, Grem JL, Swain SM, Monahan BP: NCCAM/NCI Phase 1 Study of Mistletoe Extract and Gemcitabine in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2013, 2013: 964592
Mabed M, El-Helw L, Sharma S: Phase II study of viscum fraxini-2 in patients with advanced
hepatocellular carcinoma. Br J Cancer 2004, 90:65-69
Piao BK, Wang YX, Xie GR, Mansmann U, Matthes H, Beuth J, Lin HS: Impact of complementary mistletoe extract treatment on quality of life in breast, ovarian and non-small cell lung cancer patients. A prospective randomized controlled clinical trial. Anticancer Res 2004, 24:303-309
Semiglasov VF, Stepula VV, Dudov A, Schnitker J, Mengs U: Quality of life is improved in breast cancer patients by Standardised Mistletoe Extract PS76A2 during chemotherapy and follow-up: a randomised, placebo-controlled, double-blind, multicentre clinical trial. Anticancer Res 2006, 26:1519-1530
Kienle GS, Grugel R, Kiene H: Safety of higher dosages of Viscum album L. in animals and humans - systematic review of immune changes and safety parameters. BMC Complement Altern Med 2011, 11:72
Kienle GS, Glockmann A, Schink M, Kiene H: Viscum album L. extracts in breast and gynaecological cancers: a systematic review of clinical and preclinical research. Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research: CR 2009, 28:79
Kienle GS, Kiene H: Complementary cancer therapy: a systematic review of prospective clinical trials on anthroposophic mistletoe extracts. Eur J Med Res 2007, 12:103-119
Kienle GS, Kiene H: Influence of Viscum Album L (European Mistletoe) Extracts on Quality of Life in Cancer Patients: A Systematic Review of Controlled Clinical Studies. Integr Cancer Ther 2010,
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