Herbal Hyperthermia Treatment for Cancer

Disclaimer: Consult with a doctor before deciding on a treatment plan for cancer or any other disease.

Suzanne Somers brought Iscador or Mistletoe Extract to light when she used it to cure herself of breast cancer. It is one of the most widely prescribed and extensively studied alternative therapies for cancer. It has been shown to cause tumor regression by itself though some patients have used it to enhance overall quality of life and general health while undergoing conventional cancer treatments such as chemo and radiation. The herb induces high fever, which itself can cause cancer cells to die though the exact mechanisms by which mistletoe acts to cure cancer are not fully understood.


Detailed Introduction

Suzanne Somers made mistletoe famous in the United States when she used mistletoe to cure breast cancer [16].


Mistletoe is a vining plant that grows on certain types of trees. It is one of the most widely studied and widely prescribed alternative medicine therapies for cancer, particularly in Europe [1][7]. European mistletoe grows throughout continental Europe, the United Kingdom and western Asia. Celtic druids used mistletoe more than 2,000 years ago as an herbal remedy and in the early 1900’s, Rudolf Steiner, an alternative medicine practitioner, and Dr. Ita Wegman began to use mistletoe as an herbal cancer treatment [2].


Some integrative cancer experts believe that mistletoe treatment is an essential part of cancer care because it not only can causes tumor regression, but also enhances the patient’s quality of life as they are going through conventional medical treatments [5]. Research has shown that mistletoe extracts are able to kill carcinoma cells (cancer that arises from the lining of internal organs) [7]. The herb induces a fever and some patients who refuse conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery combine high-dose mistletoe extract treatments with hyperthermia treatments to successfully overcome cancer [9][14].


Mistletoe extract has not been approved as a treatment for cancer or any other medical condition by the FDA. While doctors in Europe regularly prescribe mistletoe extract for the treatment of cancer, the FDA claims that clinical trials have major weaknesses. It is hard to say whether the weaknesses were caused by FDA appointed researchers or whether the weaknesses came from another source. The FDA often uses unseemly tactics to purposely botch research studies that have to do with alternative or integrative cancer treatments, particularly those treatments that cannot be patented and therefore are not profitable [1][2][3][16].

A 2009 scientific review of 49 different studies of mistletoe extract led researchers to conclude that mistletoe extracts can boost cancer patient survival rates. According to the researchers,


“The majority of studies reported positive effects in favour of the Iscador application” [3].


These researchers carefully vetted out the research to include studies that provided scientifically reliable and valid results [4]. Still, the FDA claims that all 49 of these studies contain weaknesses that render them useless [1][2].


Most research studies examine the value of mistletoe extract in tandem with conventional treatments such as chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery. By combining mistletoe extract with conventional medicine it is scientifically more difficult to know the actual therapeutic value of this herbal medicine. By using Iscador with conventional strategies, large organizations and the pharmaceutical industry can prevent patients from realizing the potential value of this stand-alone natural cancer treatment method [3][4][5].


Safety and Effectiveness

A review of the scientific literature on mistletoe extract that included 49 different studies led researchers to conclude that mistletoe extracts can boost survival rates for patients with cancer [3].


Mistletoe extracts contain the following biologically active compounds:


  • Lectins
  • Viscotoxins
  • Oligo-saccharides
  • Polysaccharides
  • Triterpene acids [5]


The extracts are cytotoxic and have the ability to induce apoptosis in cancer cells while stimulating the immune system. When used along with chemotherapy agents, mistletoe extracts can increase the cytotoxicity of those drugs [6].


In one study, researchers observed a highly significant benefit for pancreatic cancer patients taking mistletoe extract [8]. A variety of other cancer types have also responded positively to the use of mistletoe extract including:


  • Cutaneous B-Cell Lymphoma [9]
  • Merkel Cell Cancer (a rare and aggressive neuro-endocrine cancer of the skin) [10]
  • Breast Cancer [10]
  • Malignant Melanoma [11][14]
  • Liver Cancer [11]
  • Adenoid Cystic Carcinoma [12]
  • Cutaneous Squamous Cell Carcinoma [13]

The dose of mistletoe extract is an important aspect of cancer treatment. When the goal is to reduce tumor growth (as opposed to just enhancing quality of life), high-dose injections are used. In one study, dosages were administered up to 1500 mg in humans and 1400 mg/kg in animals. The researchers saw no immune system suppression at these high doses [15]. Some patients experienced mild flu-like symptoms including:


  • Fever
  • Skin reactions at the site of injection
  • Occasional allergic reactions
  • Reversible toxicity to the liver [15]


Researchers have concluded that high-dose mistletoe extract therapy is generally low-risk, but should be monitored by experienced clinicians [15].

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How Mistletoe Is Administered

Mistletoe extract is typically administered in low doses via injection under the skin (subcutaneously) or intravenously (into a vein). It may also be injected into the pleural cavity around the lungs. In some cases, it may be injected directly into a tumor (intratumoral). Low doses of the extract may be used until the patient develops a tolerance to the medicine and the lectin content [1][5][9].


In one case report, two patients with cutaneous B-cell lymphoma received high-doses of mistletoe extract. It was administered intratumorally, subcutaneously, and intravenously. One patient also underwent whole-body hyperthermia. Both patients went into remission over the course of 12 months. Neither patients had received conventional cancer treatments [9].


Two other cancer patients in another case report, received mistletoe extract after declining conventional treatments. Once again, the mistletoe extract was administered intratumorally, subcutaneously, and intravenously in high-doses. Both patients went into remission. One of them went into remission within 4 months after beginning treatment, while the other went into remission 31 months after beginning treatment [10].


Another study reports that a 68-year old man was given low-dose mistletoe therapy after surgical removal of malignant melanoma. The melanoma spread to his liver and lymphatic system. He refused chemotherapy and radiation treatment and achieved complete remission from cancer [11].


Possible Negative Effects

Very few side effects have been reported in response to the use of mistletoe. At high doses, patients may experience a fever and flu-like symptoms [1][15].

Other Important Information

Mistletoe extract preparations differ in terms of their ability to stimulate the immune system and apoptosis [6].


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[1] National Cancer Institute (n.d.).  Mistletoe Extracts (PDQ®)–Patient Version. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/cam/patient/mistletoe-pdq


[2] Ashpari, Z. (2016). Can Mistletoe Help Treat Cancer? Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.healthline.com/health/mistletoe-cancer-treatment


[3] Griffin, G. E. (1974). World Without Cancer: The Story of Vitamin B17. American Media.


[4] Ostermann, T., Raak, C., Büssing, A. (2009). Survival of cancer patients treated with mistletoe extract (Iscador): a systemic literature review. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://bmccancer.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1471-2407-9-451


[5] Kienle, G. S., Mussler, M., Fuchs, D., Kiene, H. (2016). Intravenous Mistletoe Treatment in Integrative Cancer Cure: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Procedures, Concepts, and Observations of Expert Doctors. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4860234/


[6] Elsässer-Beile, U., Lusebrink, S., Grussenmeyer, T., Wetterauer, U., Schultze-Seemann, W. (1998). Comparison of the effects of various clinically applied mistletoe preparations on peripheral blood leukocytes. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/9893935/


[7] Effenschwiler, J., von Balthazar, L., Stritt, B., Pruntsch, D., Ramos, M., Urech, K. Rist, L., Simöes-Wüst, A. P., Viviani, A. (2007). Mistletoe lectin is not the only cytotoxic component in fermented preparations of Viscum album from white fir. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17493268/


[8] Tröger, W., Galun, D., Reif, M., Schumann, A., Stankovic, N., Milicevic, M. (2013). Viscum album [L.] extract therapy in patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer: a randomized clinical trial on overall survival. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23890767/


[9] Orange, M., Lace, A., Fonseca, M. P., von Laue, B. H., Geider, S., Kienle, G. S. (2012). Durable Regression of Primary Cutaneous B-Cell Lymphoma Following Fever-Inducing Mistletoe Treatment: Two Case Resports. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24278797/


[10] Orange, M., Fonseca, M., Lace, A., von Laue, H. B., Geider, S. (2010). Durable tumour responses following primary high dose induction with mistletoe extracts: two case reports. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1876382010000272?via%3Dihub

[11] Kirsch, A. (2007). Successful treatment of metastatic malignant melanoma with Viscum album extract (Iscador® M). Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17532738  


[12] Werthman, P. G., Helling, D., Heusser, P., Kienle, G. S., (2014). Tumour response following high-dose intratumoural application of Viscum album on a patient with adenoid cystic carcinoma. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25082867


[13] Werthmann, P. G., Sträter, G., Friesland, H., Kienle, G. S., (2013). Durable response of cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma following high-dose peri-lesional injections of Viscum album extracts – a case report. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23394841


[14] Werthmann, P. G., Hintze, A., Kienle, G. S. (2017). Complete remission and long-term survival of a patient with melanoma metastases treated with high-dose fever-inducing Viscum album extract: A case report. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29145317


[15] Kienle, G. S., Grugel, R., Kiene, H. (2011). Safety of higher dosages of Viscum album L. in animals and humans – systematic review of immune changes and safety parameters. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21871125


[16] Exposing the FDA, Health Canada, & Pharmaceuticals (2014). Cancer – Natural Cures – Mistletoe. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SVktQJx_mLo


[17] CBS News (2009). Suzanne Somers Cancer Therapy. Retrieved May 31, 2018 from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hQicB_7KNL8