Dr. Weeks’ Comment: Mistletoe extract has been used for the treatment of people with cancer for the past 100 years. (see following article) It is a unique plant: seemingly parasitic, it makes a tumor shaped ball (not heliocentric) which, to any passing radiologist, appears as to be “lung cancer in a tree” – the image is striking. Ancient doctors studied nature to read the “doctrine of signatures” wherein the medicinal plant reveals its remedy and mistletoe is a classic example of this doctrine. Now scientists are continuing to learn about the medicinal aspects of mistletoe: Mistletoe contains a cytotoxic lectin, viscumin. It also contains a number of cytotoxic proteins and polypetides (viscotoxins). Various lectins are both cytotoxic and immunostimulatory. It induces tumor necrosis, increases natural killer cell activity, increases production of interleukins 1 and 6; activates macrophages; induces programmed cell death (apoptosis), and protects DNA in normal cells during chemotherapy. (from this website: http://www.cancure.org/iscador_mistletoe.htm)
Could mistletoe give the kiss of death to cancer?
Friday, 30 November 2012
Mistletoe has become an important symbol of Christmas but it also has the potential to play a vital role as an alternative therapy for Australian sufferers of colon cancer.
At the University of Adelaide, scientists are interested in how the extract of mistletoe could either assist chemotherapy or act as an alternative to chemotherapy as a treatment for colon cancer.
Colon cancer is the second greatest cause of cancer death in the Western world. Mistletoe extract is already authorised for use by sufferers of colon cancer in Europe, but not in Australia due to a lack of scientific testing.
For her Honours research project recently completed at the University of Adelaide, Health Sciences student Zahra Lotfollahi compared the effectiveness of three different types of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on colon cancer cells. She also compared the impact of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on healthy intestinal cells.
In her laboratory studies, she found that one of the mistletoe extracts – from a species known asFraxini (which grows on ash trees) – was highly effective against colon cancer cells and was gentler on healthy intestinal cells compared with chemotherapy.
Significantly, Fraxini extract was found to be more potent against cancer cells than the chemotherapy drug.
“This is an important result because we know that chemotherapy is effective at killing healthy cells as well as cancer cells. This can result in severe side-effects for the patient, such as oral mucositis (ulcers in the mouth) and hair loss,” Ms Lotfollahi says.
“Our laboratory studies have shown Fraxini mistletoe extract by itself to be highly effective at reducing the viability of colon cancer cells. At certain concentrations, Fraxini also increased the potency of chemotherapy against the cancer cells.
“Of the three extracts tested, and compared with chemotherapy, Fraxini was the only one that showed a reduced impact on healthy intestinal cells. This might mean that Fraxini is a potential candidate for increased toxicity against cancer, while also reducing potential side effects. However, more laboratory testing is needed to further validate this work,” Ms Lotfollahi says.
“Mistletoe extract has been considered a viable alternative therapy overseas for many years, but it’s important for us to understand the science behind it,” says one of Ms Lotfollahi’s supervisors, the University of Adelaide’s Professor Gordon Howarth, a Cancer Council Senior Research Fellow.
“Although mistletoe grown on the ash tree was the most effective of the three extracts tested, there is a possibility that mistletoe grown on other, as yet untested, trees or plants could be even more effective.
“This is just the first important step in what we hope will lead to further research, and eventually clinical trials, of mistletoe extract in Australia,” Professor Howarth says.
FOR MORE INFO ON MISTLETOE
One of the most obvious differences in the practice of oncology in the United States and in Europe is the differing attitude towards mistletoe (Viscum album). European oncologists have used extracts of mistletoe for the past 90 years and such usage is no longer controversial there. By some estimates, 40 percent of French (Simon 2007) and up to 60 percent of German cancer patients receive this botanical extract (Schönekaes 2003). On the other hand, the use of Viscum Album and other mistletoe extracts is virtually unknown in the United States. Both Europe and the US have well trained and highly competent oncology communities, yet they differ profoundly on this, as well as a number of other issues concerning cancer treatment. This difference is a vivid illustration of the effects of cultural norms on medical practice (Payer 1998).
Viscum Album is an extract of the white berries of the mistletoe plant, an unusual evergreen plant that grows as a kind of parasite in trees across Europe. Globular mistletoe is a familiar sight in Germany, especially in the winter when it stands out in the bare branches of various deciduous trees. Mistletoe has a fascinating history. According to Roman authors, mistletoe was used medicinally by Celtic priests, who gathered it using golden scythes (to avoid contaminating the specimens). Much later, Rudolf Steiner (1861-1925), the founder of Anthroposophical Medicine, introduced as a cancer treatment (Steiner 1985).
The key question is whether mistletoe has anticancer effects or not. If it does not, then European doctors should stop using it (or recognize it as a placebo). If it does work, then American oncologists should adopt it as a useful adjunctive therapy. (No one I know regards it as a cure).
Earlier this year, I discussed several positive studies with mistletoe. Since then, several additional studies have added weight to the pro-mistletoe argument. Jessica Burkhart, Stephan Baumgartner, et al. of the University of Bern, Switzerland, investigated the effects of mistletoe on the adverse effects of the drug cyclophosphamide (Cytoxan) in cell line studies. The article appeared in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine in May-June 2010. The experiment involved normal white blood cells (peripheral blood mononuclear cells, or PBMCs) as well as a T-cell leukemia Jurkat cell line. Cells were first pre-incubated with mistletoe extract. Then a form of cyclophosphamide was added. After that, mitochondrial activity and replication were both measured.
The results were that mistletoe extract “strongly stimulated” healthy PBMCs but not malignant Jurkat cells. The level of activity of these cells was doubled by the addition of mistletoe (197 percent with the lower dose and 225 percent with the higher dose). In addition, mistletoe partially protected healthy PBMCs, but not malignant cells, from the damage inflicted by cyclophosphamide.
This is further scientific confirmation of the purported uses of mistletoe to reduce the adverse (side) effects of a widely used form of conventional chemotherapy. Mistletoe exerts immune modulating as well as direct anti-proliferative effects. Mistletoe may also increase levels of various anti-cancer cytokines including tumor necrosis factor (TNF-alpha).
–Ralph W. Moss, Ph.D.
Iscador Therapy for Cancer is an excellent, detailed summary of mistletoe therapy for cancer
For further information and scientific studies, see www.Mistel-Therapie.de
A basic overview of iscador can be found here: www.CanCure.org