Mistletoe, Immune Therapy

Mistletoe, an Immune Therapy

Useful for Infections- Viral, Bacterial, Fungal

In Clinical Trials at Johns Hopkins for CANCER Mistletoe is a playful plant that we delight in during the festive Winter holidays where we kiss under the mistletoe plant. Mistletoe has proven therapeutic benefits for cancer patients with extensive studies conducted in Germany. Patients also report Mistletoe has helped in treating their viral and Lyme infections.

In Europe and Canada, Mistletoe immune therapy is prescribed in hospitals and medical centers to cancer patients concurrently with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Many Clinical studies show consistently significant positive patient outcomes using mistletoe in conjunction with chemotherapy and/or radiation versus chemo and radiation alone without mistletoe. These countries cover costs of mistletoe therapy for treatment of many types of cancers such as colorectal, breast, ovarian, prostate, renal, and blood type leukemias & lymphomas. Mistletoe immune therapy is currently in clinical trials at Johns Hopkins Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center in Baltimore, Maryland. Mistletoe is prescribed and administered in a limited number of integrative medical clinics in the United States including our clinic in Charlottesville. It is given by injection and intravenous infusion.

Mistletoe enhances immune function. Most patients with cancer or infections have a compromised immune system and many are anergic and ill, without a functioning immune system. Mistletoe initiates immune response by potentiating cytokines, the brain of the immune system, that recognizes the tumor or pathogen and launches a cascade response of immune players such as natural killer cells, cytotoxic T8 cells, and antigen presenting cells that destroy cancer cells and microbial pathogens. When chemo or radiation is administered, this weakens and impairs immune function. When using Mistletoe, this strengthens your immune response and the patient can better tolerate the chemo or radiation.

Mistletoe was used by the Druids and the ancient Greeks, appearing in legend and folklore as a panacea or ‘cure-all.’ Used in Germany since the 1800s to treat cancer, Rudolf Steiner, alternative practitioner, and Dr. Ita Wegman began using mistletoe extract to treat cancer in the early 20th century. Mistletoe is a semi-parasitic plant which grows on several types of trees; including apple, oak, maple, elm, pine, and birch.

The biochemical constituents are the same but vary in quantity depending on which tree they grow. For example, lectins stimulate cytokine immune response and vary in amounts with different trees. There is a different protocol in treating different cancers and infections with differing strengths and types of Mistletoe that give the most optimal response.

Clinical Trials/Studies/Abstracts

Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary therapies for cancer. Most clinical trials using mistletoe to treat cancer have been conducted in Europe and are published in German. Mistletoe can repair DNA. It is a neuroendocrine modulator as well as an immune modulator. It helps with pain and mood. It can repair DNA mutations that is significant for cancer patients. Clinical Trials show a reduction of chemotherapy and radiation side effects (lack of appetite, nausea, vomiting, etc.), lowering the pain from tumors, and improving the quality of life for cancer patients receiving the therapy.

Extracts of mistletoe have also been shown in the laboratory to prevent angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels needed for tumors to grow. Alkaloids, viscotoxins, polysaccharides, glycoproteins, polypeptides, flavonoids, triterpenes, and lectins have been identified in Mistletoe plant to generate an immune response with an effect on cancer cells. This includes apoptosis, a cell programmed death, anti-angiogenesis preventing the growth of cancer cells, and cytotoxic properties killing cancer cells.

According to these studies, mistletoe turns on the immune system, activating mechanisms to destroy cancer cells, as well as repairing DNA. It can be used in conjunction with chemotherapy and radiation or for palliative care, lengthening survival rates and improving quality of life. It can also be used to assist cancer going into remission and when cancer goes into remission to prevent a recurrence.

Many studies involve using mistletoe as adjuvant therapy in patients with cancer. One retrospective cohort study done in Europe between 1993 and 2000 looked at the use of mistletoe extract as long-term adjuvant therapy in 800 patients treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy for colorectal cancer that had not spread. The study found that patients treated with Mistletoe had fewer adverse events, better symptom relief, and improved disease-free survival compared to patients who did not receive Mistletoe.

A European study published in 2013 looked at Mistletoe in advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer. Patients received the best supportive care and were randomly assigned to receive either Mistletoe or no anticancer therapy.

Results in 220 patients showed that those treated with Mistletoe had improved survival and less severe disease-related symptoms (including pain, weight loss, fatigue, nausea, diarrhea, and anxiety) compared with those who did not receive it.

In 2002, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), in cooperation with the National Cancer Institute (NCI), began enrolling patients for a phase I clinical trial of a mistletoe extract and gemcitabine in patients with advanced solid tumors. This combination showed low toxicity and no botanical -drug interactions were reported.

In summary, studies show Mistletoe...

● Has positive effects on the immune system.
● Protect the DNA in white blood cells, including cells exposed to DNA-damaging chemotherapy drugs. It can repair mutations in DNA
● Is a neuro-endocrine modulator and can help with pain and mood

Mistletoe is given by injection and intravenous infusion. Prescribed protocols depend on:

● The type of host tree on which the mistletoe plant grows.
● The type of cancer
● The time of year the plant is harvested.
● The exact species of mistletoe.
● Whether the extract is fermented or unfermented.
● How the extract is prepared with homeopathic methods

Mistletoe therapy is supported by multiple trials as a complementary therapy for cancer and is prescribed in Europe and Canada. Clinical trials at Johns Hopkins in Maryland and the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), in cooperation with the National Cancer Institute (NCI) have exposed physicians to the benefits of mistletoe therapy. Mistletoe therapy is prescribed and administered in Charlottesville at Virginia Integrative Practice.

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