One of the experts interviewed as part of the Beyond Chemo documentary series, Dr. Nasha Winters is a naturopathic oncologist and stage 4 ovarian cancer survivor who revealed that mistletoe extract has been used as an alternative cancer therapy in Europe for years and is beginning to attract attention in the United States. Intrigued, I conducted an Internet search to learn what this therapy entails.
Can Mistletoe Help Treat Cancer? is a report published on Healthline that speculates about the likelihood of a therapeutic benefit from a related species to the red-berried plant that is a familiar sight during the holiday season.
European mistletoe grows in in the U.K., continental Europe, and Western Asia. For more than 2,000 years, its twigs and leaves have been used in herbal remedies. Celtic druids considered the plant to be a treatment for many illnesses. In the early 20th century, Rudolf Steiner, a practitioner of alternative medicine, and Dr. Ita Wegman began to use mistletoe extract to treat cancer.
Today, mistletoe is among the most widely studied alternative therapies for cancer, according to the National Cancer Institute (NCI).
The injectable form of mistletoe extract is derived from the poisonous and semi-parasitic plant that grows on several types of trees, such as apple, oak, pine, and elm. In Europe, mistletoe extracts are among the most prescribed drugs for patients with cancer, while the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved it as a treatment for any medical condition, including cancer.
Case Study #1
In Sep 2016, Express UK published Greg Christison’s article entitled, Mistletoe proves an unlikely cure for cancer that described how Dave Reynolds, diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin lymphoma and told by his doctors that he had only two months to live, followed his wife’s suggestion to combat his condition using mistletoe extract. Four months after he began to inject himself twice a week with mistletoe extract, Reynolds’ scans came back cancer-free.
Case Study #2
In the Spring of 2014, Johns Hopkins Magazine published Joe Sugarman’s report entitled, Are Mistletoe Extract Injections the Next Big Thing in Cancer Therapy? that described a case involving a colon cancer patient named Ivelisse Page who was given only an 8 percent chance of living more than two years after the disease had spread to her liver.
Agreeing to have 20 percent of her liver removed by surgery, Page rejected chemotherapy. She and her oncologist, Dr. Luis Diaz, eventually became receptive to the idea of injecting mistletoe extract at the suggestion of Peter Hinderberger, a complimentary therapy practitioner who is one of the few physicians in the United States who deploys this cancer-fighting protocol on a regular basis.
Dr. Diaz, who is an associate professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, reviewed several European studies on mistletoe extract and reluctantly gave approval to his cancer patient. Combining mistletoe extract with dietary changes and exercise, Page, who has been cancer-free since her liver operation, has made it her goal to bring the extract from its European manufacturers to the United States. She and her husband, Jimmy, formed a nonprofit called Believe Big to connect cancer patients with doctors who use nonconventional therapies and to raise funds (via benefit dinners, fundraising walks, and donations) for the three-stage clinical trials for mistletoe extract that must be completed as part of the FDA approval process. Believe Big raised most of the $300,000 required for stage 1 testing that was launched on March 1, 2017.
Below is a link to a YouTube video that describes the mission of the Pages’ nonprofit, Believe Big.
Mixed Results from Using Mistletoe Extract in Europe
In the aforementioned Johns Hopkins Magazine article, the author included observations from Dr. Diaz about the varied results of using mistletoe extract in Europe to treat cancer, as well as including a passing reference to Channing Paller, who is an assistant professor of oncology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.
Diaz says that in Europe, clinical trials for mistletoe have produced “confusing and mixed” results. Some studies have demonstrated improvements in patients suffering from certain types of cancers, such as breast, colon, pancreatic, or melanoma, but other studies have shown the treatment to be ineffective in reducing tumor size or preventing the spread of the disease. Paller says mistletoe’s primary benefit could lie in its ability to boost the immune system, as studies have revealed that it can help patients better withstand the side effects of chemotherapy.
Update on Mistletoe Clinical Trial
Dr. Winters is the co-author (with Jess Higgins Kelley, MNT) of a book entitled, “The Metabolic Approach to Cancer: Integrating Deep Nutrition, the Ketogenic Diet, and Nontoxic Bio-Individualized Therapies.” On her Optimal Terrain Consulting website, she posted an update on Apr 4, 2018 regarding the mistletoe clinical trial that is currently underway in the United States.
The mistletoe clinical trial that is supported by Believe Big is currently underway at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The study is a Phase I clinical trial. This means that it involves a small sample of participants and aims to determine the safety, toxicity, tolerable dose, and preliminary efficacy of mistletoe in patients with cancer.
To be eligible for the trial, participants must have a solid tumor with stage IV cancer. Mistletoe extract, with the brand name of Helixor®M, will be delivered via 3-hour IV infusions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week. The trial will continue for 3 years.
Can Mistletoe Help Treat Cancer?
Are Mistletoe Extract Injections the Next Big Thing in Cancer Therapy?
By Joe Sugarman | Johns Hopkins Magazine
Published Spring 2014
Mistletoe proves an unlikely cure for cancer
Greg Christison | Express UK
Sep 15, 2016
Update on Mistletoe Trial: Believe Big
By Dr. Nasha Winters, ND, FABNO, L.Ac.
Apr 4, 2018
Mistletoe as an Integrative Cancer Therapy