International Health News

Mistletoe in cancer therapy

TORONTO, CANADA. A recent report from the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative study group dealing with unconventional cancer therapies concludes that Iscador, an extract of European mistletoe (Viscum album), may be effective in cancer treatment. The group supports further research in this area and point out that multi-centered clinical trials are already underway in Europe and are in the planning stage in Canada and the United States. Mistletoe extracts have been used in cancer therapy for over 70 years. Iscador is the most commonly used brand and is principally used in anthroposophic medical clinics in Switzerland and Germany where more than 80,000 patients have been treated since the 1920s. Proponents of Iscador claim that it stimulates the immune system, improves general well-being, and promotes the reversion of cancer cells resulting in improved survival especially in patients with cancer of the breast, lung, stomach, colon, cervix, and ovary. Iscador is prepared by fermenting an aqueous extract of the whole mistletoe plant with Lactobacillus plantarum bacteria. It is injected subcutaneously into the abdominal wall or directly into the tumor. A course of treatment may last several weeks and involves injections three to seven times per week. Iscador is compatible with chemotherapy and radiation and no toxic effects have been reported when used as directed. There are, however, reports of serious side effects if the plant or extract is taken orally or injected intravenously. Several studies have shown that mistletoe extracts inhibit cell growth and increase DNA stability. Animal studies suggest that mistletoe can shrink or eliminate tumors. Iscador can be legally prescribed in South Africa and several European countries. It is not generally available in North America, but can be obtained from the manufacturer (Weleda AG) in Germany or Switzerland.
Kaegi, Elizabeth. Unconventional therapies for cancer: 3. Iscador. Canadian Medical Association Journal, Vol. 158, May 5, 1998, pp. 1157-59

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