Mistletoe Abstracts 1

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Mistletoe therapy in oncology.
            (Horneber et al., 2008) Download
BACKGROUND:  Mistletoe extracts are commonly used in cancer patients. It is claimed that they improve survival and quality of life (QOL) in cancer patients. OBJECTIVES:  To determine the effectiveness, tolerability and safety of mistletoe extracts given either as monotherapy or adjunct therapy for patients with cancer. SEARCH STRATEGY:  Search sources included the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, Issue 3, 2007) Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field Registry of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, HEALTHSTAR, INT. HEALTH TECHNOLOGY ASSESSMENT, SOMED, AMED, BIOETHICSLINE, BIOSIS, CancerLit, CATLINE, CISCOM (August 2007). For the search the Standard Operating Procedures of the Information System in Health Economics at the German Institute for Medical Documentation and Information (DIMDI) were utilized. Reference lists of relevant articles and authors extensive files were searched for additional studies. Manufacturers of mistletoe preparations were contacted. SELECTION CRITERIA:  We included RCTs of adults with cancer of any type. The interventions were mistletoe extracts as sole treatments or given concomitantly with chemo- or radiotherapy. The outcome measures were survival times, tumor response, QOL, psychological distress, adverse effects from antineoplastic treatment and safety of mistletoe extracts. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS:  Three review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion in the review. All review authors independently took part in the extraction of data and assessment of study quality and clinical relevance. Disagreements were resolved by consensus. Study authors were contacted where information was unclear. Methodological quality was narratively described and additionally assessed with the Delphi list and the Jadad score. High methodological quality was defined if six out of nine Delphi criteria, or four out of five Jadad criteria were fulfilled. Results were presented qualitatively. MAIN RESULTS:  Eighty studies were identified. Fifty-eight were excluded for various reasons, usually as there was no prospective trial design with randomised treatment allocation. Of the 21 included studies 13 provided data on survival, 7 on tumour response, 16 on measures of QOL or psychological outcomes, or prevalence of chemotherapy-related adverse effects and 12 on side effects of mistletoe treatment; overall comprising 3484 randomised cancer patients. Interventions evaluated were 5 preparations of mistletoe extracts from 5 manufacturers and one commercially not available preparation. The general reporting of RCTs was poor. Of the 13 trials investigating survival, 6 showed some evidence of a benefit, but none of them was of high methodological quality. The results of two trials in patients with melanoma and head and neck cancer gave some evidence that the used mistletoe extracts are not effective for improving survival. Of the 16 trials investigating the efficacy of mistletoe extracts for either improving QOL, psychological measures, performance index, symptom scales or the reduction of adverse effects of chemotherapy, 14 showed some evidence of a benefit, but only 2 of them including breast cancer patients during chemotherapy were of higher methodological quality. Data on side effects indicated that, depending on the dose, mistletoe extracts were usually well tolerated and had few side effects. AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS:  The evidence from RCTs to support the view that the application of mistletoe extracts has impact on survival or leads to an improved ability to fight cancer or to withstand anticancer treatments is weak. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that mistletoe extracts may offer benefits on measures of QOL during chemotherapy for breast cancer, but these results need replication. Overall, more high quality, independent clinical research is needed to truly assess the safety and effectiveness of mistletoe extracts. Patients receiving mistletoe therapy should be encouraged to take part in future trails.

Safety and effects of two mistletoe preparations on production of Interleukin-6 and other immune parameters - a placebo controlled clinical trial in healthy subjects.
            (Huber et al., 2011) Download
BACKGROUND:  In Germany, Iscucin® Populi (IP), a preparation from mistletoe growing on the poplar tree, is used in cancer therapy while Viscum Mali e planta tota (VM), a preparation from mistletoe growing on the apple tree, is used in patients with osteoarthritis. Since mistletoe preparations are suspected to induce production of potentially tumor promoting cytokines like interleukin (IL)-6, further studies on the immunological effects are of interest. METHODS:  In this 3-armed randomized, double blind clinical trial healthy volunteers received increasing doses of either IP (strength F, 0.0125%, G, 0.25% and H, 5%, each for 4 weeks), or VM (1:1000 [D3], 1:100 [D2] and 2% each for 4 weeks) or placebo (isotonic solution) subcutaneously twice per week over a period of 12 weeks. Physical examination was performed weekly. Routine laboratory parameters and immunological parameters (C-reactive protein (CRP), differential blood count, lymphocyte subsets, immunoglobulins, IL-6 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α) were analysed every 4 weeks. RESULTS:  71 subjects were included in the study (IP = 30, VM = 21, placebo = 20) of whom 69 concluded it according to protocol. Application of IP strengths G and H caused strong local reactions at the site of injection. In parallel, a distinct eosinophilia (p < 0.001 compared to placebo) occurred. Furthermore, application of all IP concentrations resulted in an increase of CD4 cell counts (p < 0.05) compared to placebo. Stimulation of IL-6 production, CRP or relevant deviations in other laboratory parameters were not observed. Because of local reactions, IP strengths G and H were considered less tolerable than placebo. VM 2% was slightly less tolerable than placebo, caused only mild local reactions and an only small increase in eosinophile counts. CONCLUSION:  Treatment with IP results in eosinophilia and an increase of CD4 cells but not in an increase of IL-6 or CRP. No safety concerns regarding the two mistletoe preparations have been raised by this study. EudraCT-Number 2007-002166-35. TRIAL REGISTRATION:  ClinicalTrials.gov: NCT01378702.

Viscum album L. extracts in breast and gynaecological cancers: a systematic review of clinical and preclinical research.
            (Kienle et al., 2009) Download
BACKGROUND:  Viscum album L. extracts (VAE, European mistletoe) are a widely used medicinal plant extract in gynaecological and breast-cancer treatment. METHODS:  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. RESULTS:  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. CONCLUSION:  VAE shows some positive effects in breast and gynaecological cancer. More research into clinical efficacy is warranted.


 

Safety of higher dosages of Viscum album L. in animals and humans--systematic review of immune changes and safety parameters.
            (Kienle et al., 2011) Download
BACKGROUND:  Viscum album L extracts (VAE, mistletoe) and isolated mistletoe lectins (ML) have immunostimulating properties and a strong dose-dependent cytotoxic activity. They are frequently used in complementary cancer treatment, mainly to improve quality of life, but partly also to influence tumour growth, especially by injecting VAE locally and in high dosage. The question is raised whether these higher dosages can induce any harm or immunosuppressive effects. METHODS:  Systematic review of all experiments and clinical studies investigating higher dosages of VAE in animals and humans (Viscum album > 1 mg in humans corresponding to > 0.02 mg/kg in animals or ML > 1 ng/kg) and assessing immune parameters or infections or adverse drug reactions. RESULTS:  69 clinical studies and 48 animal experiments reported application of higher doses of VAE or ML and had assessed immune changes and/or harm. In these studies, Viscum album was applied in dosages up to 1500 mg in humans and 1400 mg/kg in animals, ML was applied up to 6.4 μg/kg in humans and in animals up to 14 μg/kg subcutaneously, 50 μg/kg nasally and 500 μg/kg orally. A variety of immune parameters showed fluctuating or rising outcomes, but no immunosuppressive effect. Side effects consisted mainly of dose-dependent flu-like symptoms (FLS), fever, local reactions at the injection site and various mild unspecific effects. Occasionally, allergic reactions were reported. After application of high doses of recombinant ML, reversible hepatotoxicity was observed in some cases. CONCLUSIONS:  Application of higher dosages of VAE or ML is not accompanied by immunosuppression; altogether VAE seems to exhibit low risk but should be monitored by clinicians when applied in high dosages.

Intravenous Mistletoe Treatment in Integrative Cancer Care: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Procedures, Concepts, and Observations of Expert Doctors.
            (Kienle et al., 2016) Download
Background. Mistletoe therapy (MT) is widely used in patient-centered integrative cancer care. The objective of this study was to explore the concepts, procedures, and observations of expert doctors, with a focus on intravenous MT. Method. A qualitative interview study was conducted with 35 highly experienced doctors specialized in integrative and anthroposophic medicine. Structured qualitative content analysis was applied. For triangulation, the results were compared with external evidence that was systematically collected, reviewed, and presented. Results. Doctors perform individualized patient assessments that lead to multimodal treatment approaches. The underlying goal is to help patients to live with and overcome disease. Mistletoe infusions are a means of accomplishing this goal. They are applied to stabilize disease, achieve responsiveness, induce fever, improve quality of life, and improve the tolerability of conventional cancer treatments. The doctors reported long-term disease stability and improvements in patients' general condition, vitality, strength, thermal comfort, appetite, sleep, pain from bone metastases, dyspnea in pulmonary lymphangitis carcinomatosa, fatigue, and cachexia; chemotherapy was better tolerated. Also patients' emotional and mental condition was reported to have improved. Conclusion. Individualized integrative cancer treatment including MT aims to help cancer patients to live well with their disease. Further research should investigate the reported observations.

Quality of life, immunomodulation and safety of adjuvant mistletoe treatment in patients with gastric carcinoma - a randomized, controlled pilot study.
            (Kim et al., 2012) Download
BACKGROUND:  Mistletoe (Viscum album L.) extracts are widely used in complementary cancer therapy. Aim of this study was to evaluate safety and efficacy of a standardized mistletoe extract (abnobaVISCUM(®) Quercus, aVQ) in patients with gastric cancer. PATIENTS AND METHODS:  32 operated gastric cancer patients (stage Ib or II) who were waiting for oral chemotherapy with the 5-FU prodrug doxifluridine were randomized 1:1 to receive additional therapy with aVQ or no additional therapy. aVQ was injected subcutaneously three times per week from postoperative day 7 to week 24 in increasing doses. EORTC QLQ-C30 and -STO22 Quality of Life questionnaire, differential blood count, liver function tests, various cytokine levels (tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha, interleukin (IL)-2), CD 16(+)/CD56(+) and CD 19(+) lymphocytes were analyzed at baseline and 8, 16 and 24 weeks later. RESULTS:  Global health status (p <0.01), leukocyte- and eosinophil counts (p ≤0.01) increased significantly in the treatment group compared to the control group. Diarrhea was less frequently reported (7% vs. 50%, p=0.014) in the intervention group. There was no significant treatment effect on levels of TNF-alpha, IL-2, CD16(+)/CD56(+) and CD 19(+) lymphocytes and liver function tests measured by ANOVA. CONCLUSION:  Additional treatment with aVQ is safe and was associated with improved QoL of gastric cancer patients. ClinicalTrials.Gov Registration number NCT01401075.

Mistletoe: from basic research to clinical outcomes in cancer and other indications.
            (Kröz et al., 2014) Download
This special issue covers a wide range of research from basic science to clinical outcomes for cancer and other indications. We intend it to provide a scientific forum to promote further research and publication in this field.


 

NCCAM/NCI Phase 1 Study of Mistletoe Extract and Gemcitabine in Patients with Advanced Solid Tumors.
            (Mansky et al., 2013) Download
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 related to platelets and granulocytes only [corrected]; 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 1300 mg/m(2) [corrected] 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.

Preclinical and clinical effects of mistletoe against breast cancer.
            (Marvibaigi et al., 2014) Download
Breast cancer is among the most frequent types of cancer in women worldwide. Current conventional treatment options are accompanied by side effects. Mistletoe is amongst the important herbal medicines traditionally used as complementary remedies. An increasing number of studies have reported anticancer activity of mistletoe extracts on breast cancer cells and animal models. Some recent evidence suggests that cytotoxic activity of mistletoe may be mediated through different mechanisms. These findings provide a good base for clinical trials. Various studies on mistletoe therapy for breast cancer patients revealed similar findings concerning possible benefits on survival time, health-related quality of life (HRQoL), remission rate, and alleviating adverse reactions to conventional therapy. This review provides an overview of the recent findings on preclinical experiments and clinical trials of mistletoe for its cytotoxic and antitumor activity and its effect on HRQoL in breast cancer patients. Moreover, studies investigating molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying antitumor activity of mistletoe are discussed in this paper. The analyzed trials provided evidence that there might be a combination of pharmacological and motivational aspects mediated by the mistletoe extract application which may contribute to the clinical benefit and positive outcome such as improved HRQoL and self-regulation in breast cancer patients.

Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systematic literature review.
            (Ostermann et al., 2009) Download
BACKGROUND:  In Europe, extracts from Viscum album (VA-E), the European white-berry mistletoe, are widely used to treat patients with cancer. METHODS:  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. RESULTS:  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). CONCLUSIONS:  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.


 

Adverse Drug Reactions and Expected Effects to Therapy with Subcutaneous Mistletoe Extracts (Viscum album L.) in Cancer Patients.
            (Steele et al., 2014b) Download
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.

Safety of Intravenous Application of Mistletoe (Viscum album L.) Preparations in Oncology: An Observational Study.
            (Steele et al., 2014a) Download
Background. Traditional mistletoe therapy in cancer patients involves subcutaneous applications of Viscum album L. preparations, with doses slowly increasing based on patient responses. Intravenous infusion of high doses may improve therapeutic outcomes and is becoming more common. Little is known about the safety of this "off-label" application of mistletoe. Methods. An observational study was performed within the Network Oncology. Treatment with intravenous mistletoe applications is described. The frequency of adverse drug reactions (ADRs) to intravenous mistletoe applications was calculated and compared to ADR data from a study on subcutaneous applications. Results. Of 475 cancer patients who received intravenous infusions of Helixor, Abnoba viscum, or Iscador mistletoe preparations, 22 patients (4.6%) reported 32 ADRs of mild (59.4%) or moderate severity (40.6%). No serious ADRs occurred. ADRs were more frequently reported to i.v. mistletoe administered alone (4.3%), versus prior to chemotherapy (1.6%). ADR frequency differed with respect to preparation type, with Iscador preparations showing a higher relative frequency, compared to Abnoba viscum and Helixor. Overall, patients were almost two times less likely to experience an ADR to intravenous compared to subcutaneous application of mistletoe. Conclusion. Intravenous mistletoe therapy was found to be safe and prospective studies for efficacy are recommended.

Use and safety of intratumoral application of European mistletoe (Viscum album L) preparations in Oncology.
            (Steele et al., 2015) Download
BACKGROUND:  Intratumoral (IT) injection of European mistletoe (Viscum album L) preparations might induce local tumor response through combined cytotoxic and immunomodulatory actions of the preparations. Although promising in vitro and in vivo data, along with clinical case studies suggest the need for validation of this hypothesis in prospective trials, the safety of IT mistletoe injections has yet to be thoroughly assessed. METHODS:  The present study summarizes the practice and safety of off-label IT mistletoe therapy within the Network Oncology, a conjoint clinical registry of German hospitals and outpatients specialized in anthroposophic and integrative medicine. Demographic, diagnosis and treatment data of cancer patients who received IT mistletoe applications between 2007 and 2013 were assessed. Suspected adverse drug reactions (ADRs) were analyzed in terms of type, frequency, severity, seriousness and potential risk factors. RESULTS:  A total of 123 cancer patients received 862 IT mistletoe injections (preparations from Abnoba, Helixor and Iscucin). The most commonly applied preparations were Abnoba viscum Fraxini (71 patients) and Helixor Mali (54 patients). Of the total patients, 26 patients (21.1%) experienced 74 ADRs. All ADRs were in response to either Abnoba viscum Fraxini (25.4% of exposed patients) or Helixor Mali (18.5% of exposed patients). ADRs were mostly body temperature or immune related and of mild (83.8%) or moderate (14.9%) intensity. Only one possible ADR was described as severe (hypertension) and no serious ADRs occurred. The frequency of ADRs to IT mistletoe injections was 3 times and 5 times higher than has previously been found for subcutaneous and intravenous applications of mistletoe, respectively. CONCLUSION:  IT injection of mistletoe preparations resulted in a relatively high frequency of ADRs. Nearly all ADRs were mild to moderate however, and no serious ADRs occurred. Furthermore, it is possible that immune-related ADRs such as pyrexia and local inflammatory reactions might be critical for tumor response. In light of these results, IT mistletoe therapy seems to be safe and prospective trials are recommended.


 

Adjuvant Cancer Biotherapy by Viscum Album Extract Isorel: Overview of Evidence Based Medicine Findings.
            (Sunjic et al., 2015) Download
Within the integrative medicine one of the most frequently used adjuvant cancer biotherapies is based on aqueous mistletoe (Viscum album) extracts. Tumor growth inhibition, stimulation of host immune response and improvement of the quality of life are the positive effects of mistletoe therapy described in several preclinical and clinical studies. However, cumulative results of the evidence based medicine findings on such treatments are rarely given. Therefore, this paper evaluates the evidence based findings describing effects of the Viscum album extract Isorel in cancer therapy with respect to the type of therapy, stage and type of illness. This study presents cumulated data for 74 patients with different types and stages of cancer treated by Viscum album extract as adjuvant treatment to different conventional therapies, mostly combined surgery and radiotherapy. The biotherapy effectiveness was evaluated according to the outcome as (1) no major therapeutic improvement (15% of patients), (2) prevention of tumor recurrence (47% of patients) and (3) regression of cancer (38% of patients). Notably, there was no obvious health worsening during the follow up period at all. Thus, the results obtained for conventional anticancer therapies combined with adjuvant biotherapy based on Viscum album extract seem to be beneficial for the majority of cancer patients (85%) without serious side effects.

Quality of life and neutropenia in patients with early stage breast cancer: a randomized pilot study comparing additional treatment with mistletoe extract to chemotherapy alone.
            (Tröger et al., 2009) Download
BACKGROUND:  Chemotherapy for breast cancer often deteriorates quality of life, augments fatigue, and induces neutropenia. Mistletoe preparations are frequently used by cancer patients in Central Europe. Physicians have reported better quality of life in breast cancer patients additionally treated with mistletoe preparations during chemotherapy. Mistletoe preparations also have immunostimulant properties and might therefore have protective effects against chemotherapy-induced neutropenia. PATIENTS AND METHODS:  We conducted a prospective randomized open label pilot study with 95 patients randomized into three groups. Two groups received Iscador® M special (IMS) or a different mistletoe preparation, respectively, additionally to chemotherapy with six cycles of cyclophosphamide, adriamycin, and 5-fluoro-uracil (CAF). A control group received CAF with no additional therapy. Here we report the comparison IMS (n = 30) vs. control (n = 31). Quality of life including fatigue was assessed with the European Organization for Research and Treatment of Cancer Quality of Life Questionnaire (EORTC-QLQ-C30). Neutropenia was defined as neutrophil counts <1,000/μl and assessed at baseline and one day before each CAF cycle. RESULTS:  In the descriptive analysis all 15 scores of the EORTC-QLQ-C30 showed better quality of life in the IMS group compared to the control group. In 12 scores the differences were significant (p < 0.02) and nine scores showed a clinically relevant and significant difference of at least 5 points. Neutropenia occurred in 3/30 IMS patients and in 8/31 control patients (p = 0.182). CONCLUSIONS:  This pilot study showed an improvement of quality of life by treating breast cancer patients with IMS additionally to CAF. CAF-induced neutropenia showed a trend to lower frequency in the IMS group.

Additional Therapy with a Mistletoe Product during Adjuvant Chemotherapy of Breast Cancer Patients Improves Quality of Life: An Open Randomized Clinical Pilot Trial.
            (Tröger et al., 2014a) Download
Background. Breast cancer patients receiving adjuvant chemotherapy often experience a loss of quality of life. Moreover chemotherapy may induce neutropenia. Patients report a better quality of life when additionally treated with mistletoe products during chemotherapy. Methods. In this prospective randomized open-label pilot study 95 patients were randomized into three groups. All patients were treated with an adjuvant chemotherapy. The primary objective of the study was quality of life, the secondary objective was neutropenia. Here we report the comparison of HxA (n = 34) versus untreated control (n = 31). Results. In the explorative analysis ten of 15 scores of the EORTC QLQ-C30 showed a better quality of life in the HxA group compared to the control group (P < 0.001 to P = 0.038 in Dunnett-T3 test). The difference was clinically relevant (difference of at least 5 points, range 5.4-12.2) in eight of the ten scores. Neutropenia occurred in 7/34 HxA patients and in 8/31 control patients (P = 0.628). Conclusions. This pilot study showed an improvement of quality of life by treating breast cancer patients with HxA additionally to CAF. Although the open design may be a limitation, the findings show the feasibility of a confirmatory study using the methods described here.

Quality of life of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer during treatment with mistletoe: a randomized controlled trial.
            (Tröger et al., 2014b) Download
BACKGROUND:  The treatment of cancer patients with mistletoe extract is said to prolong their survival and, above all, improve their quality of life. We studied whether the quality of life of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer could be improved by mistletoe extract. METHOD:  An open, single-center, group-sequential, randomized phase III trial (ISRCTN70760582) was conducted. From January 2009 to December 2010, 220 patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer who were receiving no further treatment for pancreatic cancer other than best supportive care were included in this trial. They were stratified by prognosis and randomly allocated either to a group that received mistletoe treatment or to one that did not. Mistletoe extract was given in escalating doses by subcutaneous injection three times a week. The planned interim evaluation of data from 220 patients indicated that mistletoe treatment was associated with longer overall survival, and the trial was terminated prematurely. After termination of the study, the results with respect to quality of life (assessed with the QLO-C30 scales of the European Organisation for Research and Treatment of Cancer) and trends in body weight were evaluated. RESULTS:  Data on quality of life and body weight were obtained from 96 patients treated with mistletoe and 72 control patients. Those treated with mistletoe did better on all 6 functional scales and on 7 of 9 symptom scales, including pain (95% confidence interval [CI] -29 to -17), fatigue (95% CI -36.1 to -25.0), appetite loss (95% CI -51 to -36.7), and insomnia (95% CI -45.8 to -28.6). This is reflected by the trend in body weight during the trial. CONCLUSION:  In patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic carcinoma, mistletoe treatment significantly improves the quality of life in comparison to best supportive care alone. Mistletoe is an effective second-line treatment for this disease.

High-Dose Viscum album Extract Treatment in the Prevention of Recurrent Bladder Cancer: A Retrospective Case Series.
            (von Schoen-Angerer et al., 2015) Download
INTRODUCTION:  Viscum album extract (European mistletoe), containing immuno-active compounds with dose-dependent cytotoxic activity, is being used as an adjuvant cancer treatment in Europe. Few studies have yet been done with high-dose, fever-inducing Viscum album treatment. OBJECTIVE:  To explore whether subcutaneous injections of high-dose Viscum album have a preventive effect on risk of recurrence of bladder cancer. METHODS:  We retrospectively analyzed the case records of patients with resectable bladder cancer who underwent initiation of high-dose Viscum album treatment at our clinic between January 2006 and December 2012. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES:  We calculated tumor recurrence and progression risk and explored case records to assess whether treatment had a likely, possible, or unlikely beneficial effect. RESULTS:  Eight patients were identified, 7 of whom had nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancer and 1 with muscle-invasive cancer. Four patients had frequently recurring tumors before treatment. Among the 8 patients, 28 episodes of recurrence were observed. Median tumor-free follow-up duration was 48.5 months. High-dose Viscum album showed a possible beneficial effect in 5 of 8 patients, could not be assessed in 2 patients, and had an uncertain effect in 1 patient. No tumor progression was observed. Treatment was generally well tolerated and no patient stopped treatment because of side effects. CONCLUSION:  High-dose Viscum album treatment may have interrupted frequently recurring tumors in individual patients with recurrent bladder cancer. Prospective studies are needed to assess whether this treatment offers an additional, bladder-sparing preventive option for patients with intermediate- to high-risk nonmuscle-invasive bladder cancer.. Treatment was generally well tolerated and no patient stopped treatment because of side effects.


 

An overview on anticancer activities of the Viscum album extract Isorel.
            (Zarkovic et al., 2001) Download
The activity principle of the mistletoe (Viscum album L.) phytotherapeutics could be considered as combined cytotoxic and "biological response modifying" activities (increasing host defense against cancer) that result from the activities of the plant lectins and the other biologically relevant substances. We found before that the aqueous extract Isorel, produced by Novipharm GmbH (Pörtschach, Austria) from the entire plant (planta tota) of fresh mistletoe under standardized conditions with bioassay validated batch consistency, can be valuable in experimental adjuvant cancer therapy increasing efficiency of cyclophosphamide chemotherapy. In current study we found that Isorel increases the reactivity of the tumor-bearing mice lymphocytes to the mitogens (ConA and LPS) in vitro, thus indicating its immune stimulating effects for the cancer-immunosuppressed lymphocytes. Moreover, Isorel inhibited the incorporation of 3H-labelled amino acids (protein synthesis) in various malignant cell lines. For the growth inhibition mostly higher MW components were responsible, although even less than 500 Da components were also active. We further analyzed the effects of drug application in vicinity of tumor (murine mammary carcinoma) and compared it with systemic effects. The animals carried mammary carcinoma in both hind limbs and were also injected with tumor cells i.v. to develop artificial lung metastases. Isorel was applied only at the right side (in the limb distal from the tumor) and caused persistent and almost complete inhibition of the tumor growth for 2/7 animals. Anticancer effects were less pronounced on the contralateral side tumors, although tumor growth rate was transiently reduced for some mice. Histology revealed that Isorel treatment, both at the side of tumor and systemically, increased the incidence of apoptosis and necrosis in the tumors, while reduction of mitosis was noticed only for the tumors in vicinity of the tumor exposed to Isorel. Finally, animals treated with Isorel had, on the average, three times less lung metastases than the controls. Thus, we conclude that both local and systemic effects of the application of Isorel could be of benefit for the tumor-bearing organism resulting in immunomodulation combined with tumor growth inhibition and reduction of metastases. According to the in vitro results, antitumorous effects could be the result not only of the mistletoe lectins and the other high MW factors, but also of the very low MW (< 500 Da) substances that deserve further analyses.


 

References

Horneber, MA, et al. (2008), ‘Mistletoe therapy in oncology.’, Cochrane Database Syst Rev, (2), CD003297. PubMed: 18425885
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