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Mistletoe Injections for Tumor Treatment

Analysis by Dr. Joseph Mercola Fact Checked

mistletoe injection

Story at-a-glance -

  • Mistletoe injections have demonstrated effective results in several trials based in Europe, extending life and reducing symptoms associated with cancer
  • Most people will either have a personal experience or know someone who has cancer as an estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the U.S. in 2018; the most common of which are breast, lung, prostate and colorectal cancers
  • Suzanne Somers, actress, author and health advocate, was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2011 and chose to use natural strategies, including mistletoe extract to successfully treat her disease
  • Although chemotherapy may make breast cancer aggressive and more likely to spread, other natural treatment options may offer similar, if not better, results

According to the National Cancer Institute,1 an estimated 1.7 million new cases of cancer will be diagnosed in the United States in 2018. The most common cancers are breast cancer, lung and bronchus cancer, prostate cancer and colon and rectum cancer. Cancer mortality is higher in women than in men and over 35 percent of men and women will be diagnosed with cancer at some point in their life.

Based solely on statistics, it is likely most people either have a personal experience with or know someone who has had cancer. Emerging scientific data show the development of cancer as not a genetic problem but rather a metabolic disease, primarily rooted in mitochondrial dysfunction.

Unfortunately, significant damage may also be done after exposure to environmental toxins found in personal care products, weed killer and house cleaning supplies. Dr. Lee Cowden comments most individuals do not die from cancer but rather from the side effects of the treatment.

One of the major concerns with chemotherapy is the indiscriminate toxicity used to poison your body systematically in an attempt to knock out cancer cells. There have been signs these treatment options may cause more harm than good. In a case of breast cancer, the chemotherapy drug tamoxifen reduces the risk of breast cancer but more than doubles a woman's risk of uterine cancer.2

Increasingly, more are seeking a natural approach to the treatment of cancer, including supplements, exercise, quality sleep and a cyclical ketogenic diet designed to boost fat metabolism, support mitochondrial health and starve cancer cells that derive most of their nutrition from sugar.

Mistletoe extract is now the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine therapy treatment for cancer3 and one which Suzanne Somers used in her breast cancer treatment.4

Suzanne Somers Opted for Iscador Injections

Somers is an American actress best known for the role she played in the sitcom "Three's Company." She's also an author, singer, businesswoman and health spokesperson. In 2001 she was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Following a lumpectomy to remove the tumor and radiation, she opted for alternative medicine, refusing chemotherapy despite her physician's recommendations. Somers said:5

"My cancer has become a veiled gift because when confronted with standard of care — the standard treatment protocol for cancer [being] radiation, chemotherapy and after-care drugs — I looked at the doctor and I said, ‘I can’t do this.’ And he said, ‘But you’ll die.’ And I said, ‘I honestly believe I will die if I do what you tell me. The idea of flooding my body with chemical poison just doesn’t reckon with who I am."

Somers reports her lumpectomy removed nearly as much of her breast as a mastectomy. She refused an implant and wore an insert to ensure she didn't add any other foreign substances to her body. Following personal research, Somers treated herself with injections of Iscador, mistletoe extract, and placed a higher priority on sleep and other lifestyle choices.

Years after her lumpectomy Somers discovered a plastic surgeon in Japan doing experimental procedures to "regrow" a woman's breast tissue using her stem cells. Stem cells were removed from her body fat. These cells were then inserted into congealed fat and inserted in her breast.6 Over the next two years, blood vessels formed and she regained complete feeling over the area.

Somers also practiced gratitude in her effort to heal her body and spent time each night writing down what she did each day to move toward health. She suggests women dealing with breast cancer try to “look for the good.” She goes on to explain:7

"As someone who has survived breast cancer, you can be a victim, and 'poor me' and 'why did this happen to me?' And I don't mean that in a cold or judgmental way at all. But what good does that do you?

How is that going to inspire others, move you forward as a person? Everything that happens to us as individuals is an opportunity for growth, spiritually and emotionally."

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Mistletoe Extract in the Treatment of Cancer

Mistletoe extract is usually given by injection under the skin.8 Less frequently it's injected directly into a vein, into the pleural cavity or into a tumor. Very few serious side effects have been reported and minor side effects have included soreness and inflammation at the injection site, headache, fever and chills. Very few cases of allergic reaction, including anaphylactic shock, have been reported.

The products derived from mistletoe vary depending upon the type of host tree on which the mistletoe grew, the species of the plant and the time of year the plant is harvested. Most extracts are made in a water-based solution or a solution of water and alcohol.9

At present, most clinical trials have been done in Europe. Many of these have reported positive results, although the National Cancer Institute finds some weaknesses, including small trial size, lack of dosage information and poor study design. However, they also report10 many of the in vitro studies demonstrated growth inhibition, cell death and antitumor activity using mistletoe extract.

In simplest terms, cancer cells are unable to die like normal cells. Your body usually uses a checks and balances system to remove old cells, called apoptosis. Phytonutrients, such as those found in the extracts of mistletoe, have demonstrated the capacity to restore apoptosis to cancer cells so they don't grow unchecked, and to support your immune system.11

Cancer cells also proliferate through a process of developing new blood vessels. Mistletoe extract demonstrates the ability to block the formation of new vessels. Mistletoe is used widely in Germany as their health care system pays for the treatments. In one meta-analysis, researchers reported a review of Iscador treatments showed a lower risk of mortality.12 Other studies demonstrate:13

A retrospective study gathering data between 1993 and 2000 evaluated the use of mistletoe extract as a long-term adjuvant therapy in 804 patients being treated with chemotherapy and or radiation for colorectal cancer. Those treated with mistletoe extract had fewer adverse events, better symptom relief and improved disease-free survival.

One study evaluated the use of mistletoe extract in advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer, a cancer often associated with poor outcome. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either mistletoe extract or no anticancer therapy. The results demonstrated those treated with mistletoe extract had improve survival and less disease-related symptoms.

A study using data from 312 patients evaluated the use of mistletoe extract in non-small cell lung cancer, which could not otherwise be treated. No difference was reported between treatment with mistletoe, an injection made from sheep spleen, or a placebo. Those who received mistletoe extract reported an improved sense of well-being compared to others, though.

In a randomized clinical trial of 830 high-risk melanoma patients, half received treatment of interferon and half received mistletoe extract for one year. At eight years follow-up, there was no increase in survival time between the interferon and the mistletoe group.

However, it's important to note interferon comes with a long list of side effects. Ten percent of users experience dizziness, loss or thinning of hair, breathlessness and an increased risk of infection..14

History of the Mistletoe Plant

Mistletoe has a long and interesting history. Although kissing under the sprigs of a mistletoe is a well-known holiday tradition, many ancient cultures prized its healing properties.15 The Greeks used it as a cure for menstrual cramps and spleen disorders, while the Roman naturalist Pliny the Elder noted use against epilepsy, ulcers and poisons.

Romantic overtones likely started with the Celtic Druids.16 Since the plant blossoms even during the frozen winter months, the Druids saw it as a sacred symbol and administered it to humans and animals in the hope of restoring fertility.

In ancient Scandinavia, the custom was that if out in the woods you found yourself standing under the plant and encountered an enemy, you both had to lay down your arms until the following day.17 The tradition of kissing under the mistletoe started an ancient Greece during the Festival of Saturnalia and was later incorporated into marriage ceremonies as the plant was associated with fertility.18

During the Roman era, enemies would reconcile their differences under a mistletoe plant, which they believed help them come to peace. Mistletoe is actually a parasitic plant that evolved the ability to grow on trees without establishing its own root system. In doing this they absorb the same nutrients and water from the host plant.

Chemotherapy May Make Breast Cancer Aggressive and More Likely to Spread

Preoperative chemotherapy, known as neoadjuvant chemotherapy, is offered to women as it helps shrink tumors prior to surgical removal. This increases the likelihood women will receive a lumpectomy instead of a full mastectomy.

However, after performing tests on mice and human tissue, researchers found this practice may actually increase the likelihood of metastasis by increasing tumor microenvironment of metastasis. When mice with breast cancer are given chemotherapy it altered the tumor microenvironment, making it more conducive for the cancer to spread.

Chemotherapy treatment doubled the number of cancer cells in the bloodstream and lungs compared to the mice who did not receive treatment. Further, in 20 human patients who received common chemotherapy drugs, the tumor microenvironments also became more favorable to cancer spread. Researchers wrote an editorial in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, saying:19

"Unfortunately, neoadjuvant chemotherapy does not seem to improve overall survival, as demonstrated in the National Surgical Adjuvant Breast and Bowel Project (NSABP) B18 trial, among others."

This essentially means women may be trading an increased risk of cancer metastasis for a treatment without proof it improves their chances of survival. Although this may sound surprising, it is not a new discovery.

In 2012, researchers found chemotherapy for prostate cancer caused DNA damage in healthy cells and caused them to secrete more of a protein called WNT16B, which boosts tumor growth and encourages cancer cells to develop resistance to treatment.20

Certain chemotherapy drugs can also increase your risk for acute myeloid leukemia occurring within 10 years after treatment for your original cancer. Research has demonstrated the risk for a second cancer is slightly higher for childhood cancer survivors than is the risk for cancer and those of the same age and the general population.21

As research continues to reveal the wide-reaching and devastating effects of chemotherapy to healthy cells, it has also shown it makes only a minor contribution to cancer survival. A clinical oncology study22 found that in terms of five-year survival rates of adult cancer cases, chemotherapy has an average survival rate of just 2.3 percent in Australia and 2.1 percent in the U.S.

Natural Cancer Preventive and Treatment Strategies

There are a number of preventive strategies you may consider, most of which support optimal health. Two primary initiatives in the treatment and prevention of cancer are moving to a fat-burning dietary plan to starve cancer cells, and detoxification to remove as many toxins and heavy metals as possible.

For a discussion of alternative treatments you may consider, see several of my previous articles, including: