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1.  NCCAM/NCI Phase 1 Study of Mistletoe Extract and Gemcitabine in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors 
Purpose. European Mistletoe (Viscum album L.) extracts (mistletoe) are commonly used for cancer treatment in Europe. This phase I study of gemcitabine (GEM) and mistletoe in advanced solid cancers (ASC) evaluated: (1) safety, toxicity, and maximum tolerated dose (MTD), (2) absolute neutrophil count (ANC) recovery, (3) formation of mistletoe lectin antibodies (ML ab), (4) cytokine plasma concentrations, (5) clinical response, and (6) pharmacokinetics of GEM. Methods. Design: increasing mistletoe and fixed GEM dose in stage I and increasing doses of GEM with a fixed dose of mistletoe in stage II. Dose limiting toxicities (DLT) were grade (G) 3 nonhematologic and G4 hematologic events; MTD was reached with 2 DLTs in one dosage level. Response in stage IV ASC was assessed with descriptive statistics. Statistical analyses examined clinical response/survival and ANC recovery. Results. DLTs were G4 neutropenia, G4 thrombocytopenia, G4 acute renal failure, and G3 cellulitis, attributed to mistletoe. GEM 1380 mg/m2 and mistletoe 250 mg combined were the MTD. Of 44 patients, 24 developed nonneutropenic fever and flu-like syndrome. GEM pharmacokinetics were unaffected by mistletoe. All patients developed ML3 IgG antibodies. ANC showed a trend to increase between baseline and cycle 2 in stage I dose escalation. 6% of patients showed partial response, 42% stable disease. Median survival was 200 days. Compliance with mistletoe injections was high. Conclusion. GEM plus mistletoe is well tolerated. No botanical/drug interactions were observed. Clinical response is similar to GEM alone.
PMCID: PMC3826324  PMID: 24285980
2.  Mistletoe lectin is not the only cytotoxic component in fermented preparations of Viscum album from white fir (Abies pectinata) 
Preparations of mistletoe (Viscum album) are the form of cancer treatment that is most frequently used in the complementary medicine. Previous work has shown that these preparations are able to exert cytotoxic effects on carcinoma cells, the extent of which might be influenced by the host tree species and by the content of mistletoe lectin.
Using colorimetric assays, we have now compared the cytotoxic effects of Viscum album preparations (VAPs) obtained from mistletoe growing on oak (Quercus robur and Q. petraea, VAP-Qu), apple tree (Malus domestica,, VAP-M), pine (Pinus sylvestris, VAP-P) or white fir (Abies pectinata, VAP-A), on the in vitro growth of breast and bladder carcinoma cell lines. While MFM-223, KPL-1, MCF-7 and HCC-1937 were the breast carcinoma cell lines chosen, the panel of tested bladder carcinoma cells comprised the T-24, TCC-SUP, UM-UC-3 and J-82 cell lines.
Each of the VAPs inhibited cell growth, but the extent of this inhibition differed with the preparation and with the cell line. The concentrations of VAP-Qu, VAP-M and VAP-A which led to a 50 % reduction of cell growth (IC50) varied between 0.6 and 0.03 mg/ml. Higher concentrations of VAP-P were required to obtain a comparable effect. Purified mistletoe lectin I (MLI) led to an inhibition of breast carcinoma cell growth at concentrations lower than those of VAPs, but the sensitivity towards purified MLI did not parallel that towards VAPs. Bladder carcinoma cells were in most cases more sensitive to VAPs treatment than breast carcinoma cells. The total mistletoe lectin content was very high in VAP-Qu (54 ng/mg extract), intermediate in VAP-M (25 ng/mg extract), and very low in VAP-P (1.3 ng/mg extract) and in VAP-A (1 ng/mg extract). As to be expected from the low content of mistletoe lectin, VAP-P led to relatively weak cytotoxic effects. Most remarkably, however, the lectin-poor VAP-A revealed a cytotoxic effect comparable to, or even stronger than, that of the lectin-rich VAP-Qu, on all tested bladder and breast carcinoma cell lines.
The results suggest the existence of cytotoxic components other than mistletoe lectin in VAP-A and reveal an unexpected potential of this preparation for the treatment of breast and bladder cancer.
PMCID: PMC1878504  PMID: 17493268
3.  Mistletoe preparation (Viscum Fraxini-2) as palliative treatment for malignant pleural effusion: a feasibility study with comparison to bleomycin 
ecancermedicalscience  2014;8:424.
Malignant pleural effusion is a common problem in patients with solid tumours. It has a significant impact on quality of life, and, hence, there is a substantial need to investigate new agents to treat it.
Patients and methods
This is a prospective randomised controlled study, including patients with symptomatic recurrent malignant pleural effusion of different primaries. Patients were randomised into two groups: the first group received five ampoules of mistletoe preparation with defined lectin content (Viscum Fraxini-2, ATOS Pharma) diluted in 10 cc glucose 5% solution. Re-instillation was repeated every week until complete dryness of the pleural fluid was achieved (the maximum duration of the therapy was eight weeks). The second group received 60 units of bleomycin once intrapleurally.
The primary aim of this paper was to evaluate the efficacy of mistletoe preparation as a palliative treatment for malignant pleural effusions in comparison with bleomycin. The secondary aim was to evaluate the tolerability of the mistletoe preparation.
A total of 23 patients were included and followed up during the study from December 2007 to January 2012: 13 patients received mistletoe preparation, and ten patients received bleomycin. Overall clinical response was reported in 61.5% of the mistletoe preparation arm versus 30% in bleomycin arm (p = 0.2138), 95% CI = (–0.1203, 0.6325). The toxicity of both arms was mild and manageable; the mistletoe preparation arm included fever, chills, headache, malaise, and, in two cases, allergic reaction, which was controlled by discontinuation of the drug and steroid injection.
Mistletoe preparation is an efficient and well tolerated sclerosant agent which needs further investigation.
PMCID: PMC4004388  PMID: 24834119
mistletoe preparation; pleural effusion
4.  A Randomized Study on Postrelapse Disease-Free Survival with Adjuvant Mistletoe versus Oral Etoposide in Osteosarcoma Patients 
Background. Osteosarcoma is a highly malignant bone tumour. After the second relapse, the 12-month postrelapse disease-free survival (PRDFS) rate decreases below 20%. Oral Etoposide is often used in clinical practice after surgery as an “adjuvant” outside any protocol and with only limited evidence of improved survival. Viscum album fermentatum Pini (Viscum) is an extract of mistletoe plants grown on pine trees for subcutaneous (sc) injection with immunomodulatory activity. Methods. Encouraged by preliminary findings, we conducted a study where osteosarcoma patients free from disease after second metastatic relapse were randomly assigned to Viscum sc or Oral Etoposide. Our goal was to compare 12-month PRDFS rates with an equivalent historical control group. Results. Twenty patients have been enrolled, with a median age of 34 years (range 11–65) and a median follow-up time of 38.5 months (3–73). The median PRDSF is currently 4 months (1–47) in the Etoposide and 39 months (2–73) in the Viscum group. Patients getting Viscum reported a higher quality of life due to lower toxicity. Conclusion. Viscum shows promise as adjuvant treatment in prolonging PRDFS after second relapse in osteosarcoma patients. A larger study is required to conclusively determine efficacy and immunomodulatory mechanisms of Viscum therapy in osteosarcoma patients.
PMCID: PMC3988743  PMID: 24803944
5.  Emerging roles of mistletoes in malignancy management 
3 Biotech  2013;4(1):13-20.
Mistletoes are a group of obligate plant semi-parasites in the order Santalales. These clumps of plants growing on a wide range of host plants have been traditionally regarded as medicinal repositories. However, current scientific discoveries have validated their health potentials like never before. Their extracts containing alkaloids, viscotoxins, lectins, and polysaccharides have been evidenced to possess a myriad biological potentials including cancer inhibition. Mistletoes have emerged as promising alternative therapy against colon, oral, lung, and pancreas cancers. The plant extracts bolster immunity, delay tumour initiation and progression, kill malignant tumours, stabilize DNA, alleviate side effects of chemotherapeutics, improve the lifespan, and coping ability of cancer patients and survivors. A range of proprietary formulations viz. Iscador, Eurixor, Helixor, Lektinol, Isorel, Iscucin, Abnoba-viscum and recombinant lectin ML-1 are already being commercialized. This review presents an informative account on the recent developments in mistletoe-mediated cancer management. The underlying mechanisms, possibilities and limitations in cancer therapeutic development are outlined for kindling both researcher and public interest.
PMCID: PMC3909578
Mistletoe; Anticancer; Lectin; Polysaccharide; Immune modifier
6.  Mistletoe treatments for minimising side effects of anticancer chemotherapy 
More than 200,000 persons died in 2002 in Germany as a consequence of cancer diseases. Cancer (ICD-9: 140-208, ICD-10: C00-C97) accounted for 28% of all male deaths and for 22% of all female deaths. Cancer treatment consists on surgery, radio- and chemotherapy. During chemotherapy patients may experience a wide variety of toxic effects (including life-threatening toxicity) which require treatment. The type and the intensity of chemotherapy toxicity are one of the limiting factors in cancer treatment. Toxic effects are also one of the factors affecting health related quality of life (HRQOL) during chemotherapy.
Mistletoe extracts belong to the group of so called „unconventional methods“ and are used in Germany as complementary cancer treatments. It has been postulated that the addition of mistletoe to chemotherapeutical regimes could help reduce chemotherapy-induced toxicity and enhance treatment tolerability.
The German social health insurance covers the prescription of ML I standardized mistletoe extracts when those are prescribed as palliative cancer treatments with the aim of improving HRQOL.
Research questions
Does the addition of mistletoe to chemotherapeutical regimes reduce their toxicity?Does the addition of mistletoe to chemotherapeutical regimes contribute to improve quality of life?Has the addition of mistletoe to chemotherapeutical regimes any effects on survival?Has the addition of mistletoe to chemotherapeutical regimes any effects on tumor-remission?
We conducted a systematic literature search in following databases: The Cochrane Library, DIMDI Superbase and Dissertation Abstracts. We included systematic reviews and randomized controlled trials (RCT). Appraisal of literature was done by two authors independently. Checklists were used to guide literature appraisal. The Jadad-Score was used to score quality of RCT. Evidence was summarized in tables and in narrative form.
Results and discussion
The literature search yielded 437 potentially relevant papers. A total of 94 papers was retrieved. Of them, 48 were potentially relevant for answering the research questions and 46 for background information. In this report we summarize the results from three systematic reviews, five published RCT and two unpublished RCT. A protocol of an ongoing systematic review from the Cochrane Collaboration was also identified.
The information gathered from the systematic reviews was insufficient to answer the research questions. The relevant studies identified and synthetised in these reviews were appraised and extracted again. In addition, a set of recently published RCT was identified and included in these report.
None of the RCT defined frequency or severity of chemotherapy associated toxic effects as its primary outcome. Some of the RCT reported, however, rates of toxic effects or parameters related to toxicity. The results are inconsistent among the RCT ranging from no effect on to positive effects (i. e. reduction) on chemotherapy toxicity. RCT with treatment toxicity as primary outcome are needed to answer the question of whether the addition of mistletoe extracts to chemotherapy regimes can help reducing treatment toxicity.
HRQOL was the primary outcome in four RCT. The addition of mistletoe to chemotherapy showed to have a positive effect on HRQOL of women treated for breast cancer.
The available evidence does not allow giving a conclusive answer to the question of whether the addition of mistletoe to chemotherapeutical regimes can reduce the toxicity of the latter. RCT are needed in which the primary outcome is treatment toxicity. The addition of standardised mistletoe extract to chemotherapeutical regimes in the treatment of women with breast cancer can lead to improvements in HRQOL. In the light of the results from RCT the coverage of mistletoe in cancer treatment should be restricted in Germany to the latter indication.
PMCID: PMC3011359  PMID: 21289969
7.  Interaction of standardized mistletoe (Viscum album) extracts with chemotherapeutic drugs regarding cytostatic and cytotoxic effects in vitro 
Given the importance of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to cancer patients, there is an increasing need to learn more about possible interactions between CAM and anticancer drugs. Mistletoe (Viscum album L.) belongs to the medicinal herbs that are used as supportive care during chemotherapy. In the in vitro study presented here the effect of standardized mistletoe preparations on the cytostatic and cytotoxic activity of several common conventional chemotherapeutic drugs was investigated using different cancer cell lines.
Human breast carcinoma cell lines HCC1937 and HCC1143 were treated with doxorubicin hydrochloride, pancreas adenocarcinoma cell line PA-TU-8902 with gemcitabine hydrochloride, prostate carcinoma cell line DU145 with docetaxel and mitoxantrone hydrochloride and lung carcinoma cell line NCI-H460 was treated with docetaxel and cisplatin. Each dose of the respective chemotherapeutic drug was combined with Viscum album extract (VAE) in clinically relevant concentrations and proliferation and apoptosis were measured.
VAE did not inhibit chemotherapy induced cytostasis and cytotoxicity in any of our experimental settings. At higher concentrations VAE showed an additive inhibitory effect.
Our in vitro results suggest that no risk of safety by herb drug interactions has to be expected from the exposition of cancer cells to chemotherapeutic drugs and VAE simultaneously.
PMCID: PMC3893555  PMID: 24397864
Mistletoe (Viscum album L.); Iscador; Chemotherapy; Drug interactions; Cytostasis; Cytotoxicity
8.  Barriers and challenges in integration of anthroposophic medicine in supportive breast cancer care 
SpringerPlus  2013;2:364.
In the last decade, more and more oncology centers are challenged with complementary medicine (CM) integration within supportive breast cancer care. Quality of life (QOL) improvement and attenuation of oncology treatment side effects are the core objectives of integrative CM programs in cancer care. Yet, limited research is available on the use of specific CM modalities in an integrative setting and on cancer patients’ compliance with CM consultation. Studies are especially warranted to view the clinical application of researched CM modalities, such as anthroposophic medicine (AM), a unique CM modality oriented to cancer supportive care. Our objective was to characterize consultation patterns provided by physicians trained in CM following oncology health-care practitioners’ referral of patients receiving chemotherapy. We aimed to identify characteristics of patients who consulted with AM and to explore patients’ compliance to AM treatment. Of the 341 patients consulted with integrative physicians, 138 were diagnosed with breast cancer. Following integrative physician consultation, 56 patients were advised about AM treatment and 285 about other CM modalities. Logistic multivariate regression model found that, compared with patients receiving non-anthroposophic CM, the AM group had significantly greater rates of previous CM use [EXP(B) = 3.25, 95% C.I. 1.64-6.29, p = 0.001] and higher rates of cancer recurrence at baseline (p = 0.038). Most AM users (71.4%) used a single AM modality, such as mistletoe (viscum album) injections, oral AM supplements, or music therapy. Compliance with AM modalities following physician recommendation ranged from 44% to 71% of patients. We conclude that AM treatment provided within the integrative oncology setting is feasible based on compliance assessment. Other studies are warranted to explore the effectiveness of AM in improving patients’ QOL during chemotherapy.
PMCID: PMC3736081  PMID: 23961426
Integrative medicine; Anthroposophic medicine; Viscum album; Quality of life; Complementary medicine; Cancer
9.  Triterpenoids Amplify Anti-Tumoral Effects of Mistletoe Extracts on Murine B16.F10 Melanoma In Vivo 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(4):e62168.
Mistletoe extracts are often used in complementary cancer therapy although the efficacy of that therapy is controversially discussed. Approved mistletoe extracts contain mainly water soluble compounds of the mistletoe plant, i.e. mistletoe lectins. However, mistletoe also contains water-insoluble triterpenoids (mainly oleanolic acid) that have anti-tumorigenic effects. To overcome their loss in watery extracts we have solubilized mistletoe triterpenoids with cyclodextrins, thus making them available for in vivo cancer experiments.
Experimental design
B16.F10 subcutaneous melanoma bearing C57BL/6 mice were treated with new mistletoe extracts containing both water soluble compounds and solubilized triterpenoids. Tumor growth and survival was monitored. In addition, histological examinations of the tumor material and tumor surrounding tissue were performed.
Addition of solubilized triterpenoids increased the anti-tumor effects of the mistletoe extracts, resulting in reduced tumor growth and prolonged survival of the mice. Histological examination of the treated tumors showed mainly tumor necrosis and some apoptotic cells with active caspase-3 and TUNEL staining. A significant decrease of CD31-positive tumor blood vessels was observed after treatment with solubilized triterpenoids and different mistletoe extracts.
We conclude that the addition of solubilized mistletoe triterpenoids to conventional mistletoe extracts improves the efficacy of mistletoe treatment and may represent a novel treatment option for malignant melanoma.
PMCID: PMC3629099  PMID: 23614029
10.  Viscum album L. extracts in breast and gynaecological cancers: a systematic review of clinical and preclinical research 
Viscum album L. extracts (VAE, European mistletoe) are a widely used medicinal plant extract in gynaecological and breast-cancer treatment.
Systematic review to evaluate clinical studies and preclinical research on the therapeutic effectiveness and biological effects of VAE on gynaecological and breast cancer. Search of databases, reference lists and expert consultations. Criteria-based assessment of methodological study quality.
19 randomized (RCT), 16 non-randomized (non-RCT) controlled studies, and 11 single-arm cohort studies were identified that investigated VAE treatment of breast or gynaecological cancer. They included 2420, 6399 and 1130 patients respectively. 8 RCTs and 8 non-RCTs were embedded in the same large epidemiological cohort study. 9 RCTs and 13 non-RCTs assessed survival; 12 reported a statistically significant benefit, the others either a trend or no difference. 3 RCTs and 6 non-RCTs assessed tumour behaviour (remission or time to relapse); 3 reported statistically significant benefit, the others either a trend, no difference or mixed results. Quality of life (QoL) and tolerability of chemotherapy, radiotherapy or surgery was assessed in 15 RCTs and 9 non-RCTs. 21 reported a statistically significant positive result, the others either a trend, no difference, or mixed results. Methodological quality of the studies differed substantially; some had major limitations, especially RCTs on survival and tumour behaviour had very small sample sizes. Some recent studies, however, especially on QoL were reasonably well conducted. Single-arm cohort studies investigated tumour behaviour, QoL, pharmacokinetics and safety of VAE. Tumour remission was observed after high dosage and local application. VAE application was well tolerated. 34 animal experiments investigated VAE and isolated or recombinant compounds in various breast and gynaecological cancer models in mice and rats. VAE showed increase of survival and tumour remission especially in mice, while application in rats as well as application of VAE compounds had mixed results. In vitro VAE and its compounds have strong cytotoxic effects on cancer cells.
VAE shows some positive effects in breast and gynaecological cancer. More research into clinical efficacy is warranted.
PMCID: PMC2711058  PMID: 19519890
11.  Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systematic literature review 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:451.
In Europe, extracts from Viscum album (VA-E), the European white-berry mistletoe, are widely used to treat patients with cancer.
We searched several databases such as Cochrane, EMBASE, NCCAM, NLM, DIMDI, CAMbase, and Medline. Inclusion criteria were controlled clinical studies on parameters associated with survival in cancer patients treated with Iscador. Outcome data were extracted as they were given in the publication, and expressed as hazard ratios (HR), their logarithm, and the respective standard errors using standard formulas.
We found 49 publications on the clinical effects of Iscador usage on survival of cancer patients which met our criteria. Among them, 41 studies and strata provided enough data to extract hazard ratios (HR) and their standard errors (Iscador versus no extra treatment). The majority of studies reported positive effects in favour of the Iscador application. Heterogeneity of study results was moderate (I2 = 38.3%, p < 0.0001). The funnel plots were considerably skewed, indicating a publication bias, a notion which is corroborated by statistical means (AC = -1.3, CI: -1.9 to -0.6, p <= 0.0001). A random effect meta-analysis estimated the overall hazard ratio at HR = 0.59 (CI: 0.53 to 0.66, p < 0.0001). Randomized studies showed less effects than non-randomized studies (ratio of HRs: 1.24, CI: 0.79 to 1.92, p = 0.35), and matched-pair studies gave significantly better results than others (ratio of HRs: 0.33; CI: 0.17 to 0.65, p = 0.0012).
Pooled analysis of clinical studies suggests that adjuvant treatment of cancer patients with the mistletoe extract Iscador is associated with a better survival. Despite obvious limitations, and strong hints for a publication bias which limits the evidence found in this meta-analysis, one can not ignore the fact that studies with positive effects of VA-E on survival of cancer patients are accumulating. Future studies evaluating the effects of Iscador should focus on a transparent design and description of endpoints in order to provide greater insight into a treatment often being depreciated as ineffective, but highly valued by cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2804713  PMID: 20021637
12.  Natural health products that inhibit angiogenesis: a potential source for investigational new agents to treat cancer—Part 1 
Current Oncology  2006;13(1):14-26.
An integrative approach for managing a patient with cancer should target the multiple biochemical and physiologic pathways that support tumour development and minimize normal-tissue toxicity. Angiogenesis is a key process in the promotion of cancer. Many natural health products that inhibit angiogenesis also manifest other anticancer activities. The present article focuses on products that have a high degree of anti-angiogenic activity, but it also describes some of the many other actions of these agents that can inhibit tumour progression and reduce the risk of metastasis. Natural health products target molecular pathways other than angiogenesis, including epidermal growth factor receptor, the HER2/neu gene, the cyclooxygenase-2 enzyme, the nuclear factor kappa-B transcription factor, the protein kinases, the Bcl-2 protein, and coagulation pathways. The herbs that are traditionally used for anticancer treatment and that are anti-angiogenic through multiple interdependent processes (including effects on gene expression, signal processing, and enzyme activities) include Artemisia annua (Chinese wormwood), Viscum album (European mistletoe), Curcuma longa (curcumin), Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap), resveratrol and proanthocyanidin (grape seed extract), Magnolia officinalis (Chinese magnolia tree), Camellia sinensis (green tea), Ginkgo biloba, quercetin, Poria cocos, Zingiber officinalis (ginger), Panax ginseng, Rabdosia rubescens hora (Rabdosia), and Chinese destagnation herbs. Quality assurance of appropriate extracts is essential prior to embarking upon clinical trials. More data are required on dose–response, appropriate combinations, and potential toxicities. Given the multiple effects of these agents, their future use for cancer therapy probably lies in synergistic combinations. During active cancer therapy, they should generally be evaluated in combination with chemotherapy and radiation. In this role, they act as modifiers of biologic response or as adaptogens, potentially enhancing the efficacy of the conventional therapies.
PMCID: PMC1891166  PMID: 17576437
Angiogenesis; anti-angiogenic; natural health products; herbal medicine; anticancer; clinical trials; integrative; molecular biology
13.  Fermented Mistletoe Extract as a Multimodal Antitumoral Agent in Gliomas 
In Europe, commercially available extracts from the white-berry mistletoe (Viscum album L.) are widely used as a complementary cancer therapy. Mistletoe lectins have been identified as main active components and exhibit cytotoxic effects as well as immunomodulatory activity. Since it is still not elucidated in detail how mistle toe extracts such as ISCADOR communicate their effects, we analyzed the mechanisms that might be responsible for their antitumoral function on a molecular and functional level. ISCADOR-treated glioblastoma (GBM) cells down-regulate central genes involved in glioblastoma progression and malignancy such as the cytokine TGF-β and matrix-metalloproteinases. Using in vitro glioblastoma/immune cell co-cultivation assays as well as measurement of cell migration and invasion, we could demonstrate that in glioblastoma cells, lectin-rich ISCADOR M and ISCADOR Q significantly enforce NK-cell-mediated GBM cell lysis. Beside its immune stimulatory effect, ISCADOR reduces the migratory and invasive potential of glioblastoma cells. In a syngeneic as well as in a xenograft glioblastoma mouse model, both pretreatment of tumor cells and intratumoral therapy of subcutaneously growing glioblastoma cells with ISCADOR Q showed delayed tumor growth. In conclusion, ISCADOR Q, showing multiple positive effects in the treatment of glioblastoma, may be a candidate for concomitant treatment of this cancer.
PMCID: PMC3485514  PMID: 23133496
14.  Adverse Drug Reactions and Expected Effects to Therapy with Subcutaneous Mistletoe Extracts (Viscum album L.) in Cancer Patients 
Background. In Europe, mistletoe extracts are widely used as a complementary cancer therapy. We assessed the safety of subcutaneous mistletoe as a conjunctive therapy in cancer patients within an anthroposophic medicine setting in Germany. Methods. A multicentre, observational study was performed within the Network Oncology. Suspected mistletoe adverse drug reactions (ADRs) were described by frequency, causality, severity, and seriousness. Potential risk factors, dose relationships and drug-drug interactions were investigated. Results. Of 1923 cancer patients treated with subcutaneous mistletoe extracts, 283 patients (14.7%) reported 427 expected effects (local reactions <5 cm and increased body temperature <38°C). ADRs were documented in 162 (8.4%) patients who reported a total of 264 events. ADRs were mild (50.8%), moderate (45.1%), or severe (4.2%). All were nonserious. Logistic regression analysis revealed that expected effects were more common in females, while immunoreactivity decreased with increasing age and tumour stage. No risk factors were identified for ADRs. ADR frequency increased as mistletoe dose increased, while fewer ADRs occurred during mistletoe therapy received concurrent with conventional therapies. Conclusion. The results of this study indicate that mistletoe therapy is safe. ADRs were mostly mild to moderate in intensity and appear to be dose-related and explained by the immune-stimulating, pharmacological activity of mistletoe.
PMCID: PMC3929984  PMID: 24672577
15.  Evaluation of Preclinical Assays to Investigate an Anthroposophic Pharmaceutical Process Applied to Mistletoe (Viscum album L.) Extracts 
Extracts from European mistletoe (Viscum album L.) developed in anthroposophic medicine are based on specific pharmaceutical procedures to enhance remedy efficacy. One such anthroposophic pharmaceutical process was evaluated regarding effects on cancer cell toxicity in vitro and on colchicine tumor formation in Lepidium sativum. Anthroposophically processed Viscum album extract (APVAE) was produced by mixing winter and summer mistletoe extracts in the edge of a high-speed rotating disk and was compared with manually mixed Viscum album extract (VAE). The antiproliferative effect of VAE/APVAE was determined in five cell lines (NCI-H460, DU-145, HCC1143, MV3, and PA-TU-8902) by WST-1 assay in vitro; no difference was found between VAE and APVAE in any cell line tested (P > 0.14). Incidence of colchicine tumor formation was assessed by measurement of the root/shoot-ratio of seedlings of Lepidium sativum treated with colchicine as well as VAE, APVAE, or water. Colchicine tumor formation decreased after application of VAE (−5.4% compared to water, P < 0.001) and was even stronger by APVAE (−8.8% compared to water, P < 0.001). The high-speed mistletoe extract mixing process investigated thus did not influence toxicity against cancer cells but seemed to sustain morphostasis and to enhance resistance against external noxious influences leading to phenomenological malformations.
PMCID: PMC4024402  PMID: 24876872
16.  Durable Regression of Primary Cutaneous B-Cell Lymphoma Following Fever-inducing Mistletoe Treatment: Two Case Reports 
Background: Mistletoe is a complementary cancer treatment that is widely used, usually in addition to and alongside recommended conventional cancer therapy. However, little is known about its use, effectiveness, and safety in the treatment of cutaneous lymphoma.
Case Report: Two patients with primary cutaneous B-cell lymphoma (pT2bcNxM0 follicle center and pT2ac-NxM0 marginal zone) either declined or postponed recommended conventional treatment and received high-dose, fever-inducing mistletoe treatment; a combination of intratumoral, subcutaneous, and intravenous application was given; and one patient also underwent whole-body hyperthermia. The lymphoma regressed over a period of 12 and 8 months, respectively, and after administration of a cumulative dose of 12.98 g and 4.63 g mistletoe extract, respectively. The patients are in remission to date, 3.5 years after commencement of treatment. Neither patient received conventional cancer treatment during the entire observation period.
PMCID: PMC3833476  PMID: 24278797
Mistletoe treatment; Lymphoma; primary cutaneous B-cell lymphoma; fever; PCBCL; PCFCL; PCMZL; cancer; tumor
17.  Induction of apoptosis of endothelial cells by Viscum album: a role for anti-tumoral properties of mistletoe lectins. 
Molecular Medicine  2002;8(10):600-606.
BACKGROUND: Viscum album (VA) preparations consist of aqueous extracts of different types of lectins of VA. Mistletoe lectins have both cytotoxic and immunomodulatory properties that support their study for the development for cancer therapy. However, the mechanisms of the anti- tumoral properties in vivo of mistletoe lectins are not fully understood. Because endothelial cells (EC) play a pivotal role in tumor angiogenesis, we tested the hypothesis that VA extracts induce endothelial cell death and apoptosis. MATERIALS AND METHODS: We investigated the effect of various VA preparations on both human venous endothelial cell (HUVEC) and immortalized human venous endothelial cell line (IVEC) using morphologic assessment of EC, FACScan analysis after propidium iodine and annexin V labeling, and detection of cleavage of poly(A)DP-ribose polymerase (PARP). RESULTS: All tested VA preparations, except Iscador P, were cytotoxic in IVEC. Apoptosis, assessed by morphologic examination, annexin V labeling, and Western blot analysis for PARP cleavage, was involved in HUVEC cell death induced by VA preparations derived from plants that grow on oak trees (VA Qu FrF). CONCLUSIONS: Results from the present study suggest that VA extract-induced endothelial apoptosis may explain the tumor regression associated with the therapeutic use of VA preparations and support further investigations to develop novel anti-angiogenic compounds based on mistletoe compounds.
PMCID: PMC2039938  PMID: 12477970
18.  Quality of life in patients with gastric cancer: translation and psychometric evaluation of the Iranian version of EORTC QLQ-STO22 
BMC Cancer  2009;9:305.
Disease and treatment related events, can adversely affect the quality of life of patients with cancer. The purpose of this study was to translate and validate a gastric cancer specific health related quality of life questionnaire (EORTC QLQ-STO22) for Iranian patients suffering from gastric cancer.
Forward-backward procedure was applied to translate the English language version of the EORTC QLQ-STO22 into Persian (Iranian language). Then, the questionnaire and the EORTC core quality of life instrument (QLQ-C30) were administered to a sample of patients with confirmed diagnosis of gastric cancer. All patients filled in questionnaires before and after one month of treatment. Patients were divided into two groups based on intension of treatment (curative vs. palliative). Reliability and validity of the module was tested by internal consistency and known group comparisons, respectively.
In all, 105 patients were entered into the study. Cronbach's alpha for multi-item scales (to test reliability) ranged from 0.54 to 0.87. The questionnaire discriminated well between clinically distinct subgroups of patients both before and after treatment lending support to its convergent and clinical validity.
Overall, the Iranian version of the EORTC QLQ-STO22 demonstrated a good reliability and clinical validity to support its use in combination with core questionnaire in outcome studies of gastric cancer in Iran. However, using the QLQ-STO22 in a wide range of Iranian patients with gastric cancer should allow further confirmation for its psychometric properties.
PMCID: PMC2741487  PMID: 19715606
19.  Natural health products that inhibit angiogenesis: a potential source for investigational new agents to treat cancer—Part 2 
Current Oncology  2006;13(3):99-107.
The herbalist has access to hundreds of years of observational data on the anticancer activity of many herbs. Laboratory studies are expanding the clinical knowledge that is already documented in traditional texts. The herbs that are traditionally used for anti-cancer treatment and that are anti-angiogenic through multiple interdependent processes (including effects on gene expression, signal processing, and enzyme activities) include Artemisia annua (Chinese wormwood), Viscum album (European mistletoe), Curcuma longa (curcumin), Scutellaria baicalensis (Chinese skullcap), resveratrol and proanthocyanidin (grape seed extract), Magnolia officinalis (Chinese magnolia tree), Camellia sinensis (green tea), Ginkgo biloba, quercetin, Poria cocos, Zingiber officinalis (ginger), Panax ginseng, Rabdosia rubescens hora (Rabdosia), and Chinese destagnation herbs. Natural health products target molecular pathways other than angiogenesis, including epidermal growth factor receptor, the HER2/neu gene, the cyclo-oxygenase-2 enzyme, the nuclear factor kappa-B transcription factor, the protein kinases, the Bcl-2 protein, and coagulation pathways. Quality assurance of appropriate extracts is essential prior to embarking upon clinical trials. More data are required on dose–response, appropriate combinations, and potential toxicities. Given the multiple effects of these agents, their future use for cancer therapy probably lies in synergistic combinations. During active cancer therapy they should generally be evaluated in combination with chemotherapy and radiation. In this role, they act as modifiers of biologic response or as adaptogens, potentially enhancing the efficacy of the conventional therapies or reducing toxicity. Their effectiveness may be increased when multiple agents are used in optimal combinations. New designs for trials to demonstrate activity in human subjects are required. Although controlled trials may be preferable, smaller studies with appropriate endpoints and surrogate markers for anti-angiogenic response could help to prioritize agents for larger, resource-intensive phase iii trials.
PMCID: PMC1891180  PMID: 17576449
Angiogenesis; anti-angiogenic; natural health products; herbal medicine; anticancer; clinical trials; integrative; molecular biology
20.  Mistletoe Preparation Iscador: Are there Methodological Concerns with Respect to Controlled Clinical Trials?* 
In Europe many cancer patients use complementary therapies, particularly mistletoe. Only a few controlled clinical trials have been performed with the mistletoe preparation Iscador as a complementary treatment for cancer, many of them with medium to low quality due to methodological shortcomings. Reasons for some quality concerns, particularly discontinuation of treatment and/or participation and premature termination are analyzed. Analysis is based on controlled clinical trials dealing with Iscador. Data stem from the archive of published and ongoing research of the «Verein für Krebsforschung» (Society for Cancer Research) in Arlesheim, Switzerland. Controlled clinical studies with cancer patients that were started after 01.01.1990 or were not completed by then have been evaluated. Fifty-six controlled studies are documented, 24 of them randomized and 32 non-randomized. Nine of the randomized studies were done by matched-pair design, the others by conventional parallel group design; six of the last were terminated prematurely primarily for slow recruitment due to patient preferences and compliance of physicians. Patient and physician preference seem to be important factors limiting recruitment for randomized trials and hence implementation. This adds to the overall unwillingness of participation by patients with serious diseases. A well-balanced mix of designs using different research methods and outcomes is suggested combined with analyses, in countries where mistletoe therapy in general or Iscador in particular is unknown or not available.
PMCID: PMC2644282  PMID: 18955241
cancer; patient recruitment; preference
21.  Five-Year Follow-Up of Patients with Early Stage Breast Cancer After a Randomized Study Comparing Additional Treatment with Viscum Album (L.) Extract to Chemotherapy Alone 
Additional therapy with extracts of Viscum album [L.] (VaL) increases the quality of life of patients suffering from early stage breast cancer during chemotherapy. In the current study patients received chemotherapy, consisting of six cycles of cyclophosphamide, anthracycline, and 5-Fluoro-Uracil (CAF). Two groups also received one of two VaL extracts differing in their preparation as subcutaneous injection three times per week. A control group received CAF with no additional therapy. Six of 28 patients in one of the VaL groups and eight of 29 patients in the control group developed relapse or metastasis within 5 years. Subgroup analysis for hormone- and radiotherapy also showed no difference between groups. Additional VaL therapy during chemotherapy of early stage breast cancer patients appears not to influence the frequency of relapse or metastasis within 5 years.
PMCID: PMC3493140  PMID: 23150723
mistletoe therapy; chemotherapy; breast cancer; randomized clinical trial; disease-free survival rate; 5-year follow-up
22.  Mistletoe treatment in cancer-related fatigue: a case report 
Cases Journal  2009;2:77.
Cancer-related fatigue (CRF) is a major and very common disabling condition in cancer patients. Treatment options do exist but have limited therapeutic effects. Mistletoe extracts are widely-used complementary cancer treatments whose possible impact on CRF has not been investigated in detail. A 36-year-old Swedish woman with a 10-year history of recurrent breast cancer, suffering from severe CRF, started complementary cancer treatment with mistletoe extracts. Over two and a half years a correspondence was observed between the intensity of mistletoe therapy and the fatigue. Mistletoe extracts seemed to have a beneficial, dose-dependent effect on CRF. Although such effect has also been noted in clinical studies, it has never been the subject of detailed investigation. More research should clarify these observations.
PMCID: PMC2654867  PMID: 19161607
23.  The validity of the ISAAC written questionnaire and the ISAAC video questionnaire (AVQ 3.0) for predicting asthma associated with bronchial hyperreactivity in a group of 13-14 year old Korean schoolchildren. 
To validate the prevalence rate of symptoms of asthma produced by the phase I ISAAC (International Study of Asthma and Allergies in Childhood) study, hypertonic saline challenge test was carried out during the phase II study at a year after the phase I study. For the phase II study, six middle schools from three cities in the phase I study were selected. Finally, 499 children who responded to both studies were analyzed. All subjects were asked to complete the written questionnaire (WQ) first, followed by a video questionnaire (AVQ 3.0) during the phase I study. Of the 499 children, only 19 (3.8%) were positive to the hypertonic saline bronchial challenge test. The degree of agreement between responses to the two corresponding questions "wheezing at rest" and "nocturnal wheeze" in the AVQ 3.0 and WQ were moderate and weak with a Kappa indices of 0.45 and 0.23, respectively. The question on "severe wheeze" in the AVQ 3.0 had the highest Youden's index among the five questions related to asthma symptoms in the previous 12 months, but its specificity was low whereas its sensitivity was 1.0. There was no consistency of priority between the two questionnaires in predicting bronchial hyperreactivity in a group of Korean schoolchildren. Therefore we need to develop more appropriate WQ or AVQ to compare the prevalences of asthma to other countries.
PMCID: PMC3054998  PMID: 12589086
24.  Individual Patient Data Meta-analysis of Survival and Psychosomatic Self-regulation from Published Prospective Controlled Cohort Studies for Long-term Therapy of Breast Cancer Patients with a Mistletoe Preparation (Iscador) 
Mistletoe preparations such as Iscador are in common use as complementary/anthroposophic medications for many cancer indications, particularly for solid cancers. The efficacy is still discussed controversially. This paper presents an individual patient data meta-analysis of all published prospective matched-pair studies with breast cancer patients concerned with long-term application of a complementary/anthroposophic therapy with the mistletoe preparation Iscador. Six sets of data were available for individual patient meta-analysis of breast cancer patients, matched according to prognostic factors into pairs with and without mistletoe (Iscador) therapy. The main outcome measures were overall survival and psychosomatic self-regulation. Overall survival was almost significant in favor of the Iscador group in the combined data set of the randomized studies: estimate of the hazard ratio with 95% confidence interval 0.59 (0.34, 1.02). Overall survival was highly significant in the combined data set of the non-randomized studies: 0.43 (0.34, 0.56). In the combined analysis of the randomized studies, improvement of psychosomatic self-regulation, as a measure of autonomous coping with the disease, was highly significant in favor of the Iscador group: estimate of the median difference 0.45 (0.15, 0.80), P = 0.0051. The analyzed studies show that therapy with Iscador might prolong overall survival and improve psychosomatic self-regulation of breast cancer patients.
PMCID: PMC2862937  PMID: 18955332
breast cancer; Iscador; meta-analysis; mistletoe; quality of life; survival
25.  Mistletoe lectin I in complex with galactose and lactose reveals distinct sugar-binding properties 
The structures of mistletoe lectin I in complex with lactose and galactose reveal differences in binding by the two known sites in subdomains α1 and γ2 and suggest the presence of a third low-affinity site in subdomain β1.
The structures of mistletoe lectin I (ML-I) from Viscum album complexed with lactose and galactose have been determined at 2.3 Å resolution and refined to R factors of 20.9% (R free = 23.6%) and 20.9 (R free = 24.6%), respectively. ML-I is a heterodimer and belongs to the class of ribosome-inactivating proteins of type II, which consist of two chains. The A-chain has rRNA N-glycosidase activity and irreversibly inhibits eukaryotic ribosomes. The B-chain is a lectin and preferentially binds to galactose-terminated glycolipids and glycoproteins on cell membranes. Saccharide binding is performed by two binding sites in subdomains α1 and γ2 of the ML-I B-chain separated by ∼62 Å from each other. The favoured binding of galactose in subdomain α1 is achieved via hydrogen bonds connecting the 4-hydroxyl and 3-hydroxyl groups of the sugar moiety with the side chains of Asp23B, Gln36B and Lys41B and the main chain of 26B. The aromatic ring of Trp38B on top of the preferred binding pocket supports van der Waals packing of the apolar face of galactose and stabilizes the sugar–lectin complex. In the galactose-binding site II of subdomain γ2, Tyr249B provides the hydrophobic stacking and the side chains of Asp235B, Gln238B and Asn256B are hydrogen-bonding partners for galactose. In the case of the galactose-binding site I, the 2-hydroxyl group also stabilizes the sugar–protein complex, an interaction thus far rarely detected in galactose-specific lectins. Finally, a potential third low-affinity galactose-binding site in subunit β1 was identified in the present ML-I structures, in which a glycerol molecule from the cryoprotectant buffer has bound, mimicking the sugar compound.
PMCID: PMC1952410  PMID: 16508080
ribosome-inactivation proteins; mistletoe lectin I; sugar-binding sites

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