Thursday, July 06, 2006

Mistletoe Extracts (PDQ®) - Overview

Overview

This complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) information summary provides an overview of the use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer. The summary includes a brief history of mistletoe research, the results of clinical trials, and possible side effects of mistletoe use.

This summary contains the following key information:
  • Mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant that has been used for centuries to treat numerous human ailments.
  • Extracts of mistletoe have been shown to kill cancer cells in the laboratory and to stimulate the immune system.
  • Mistletoe is used mainly in Europe, where a variety of different extracts are manufactured and marketed as injectable prescription drugs. These extracts are not available commercially in the United States.
  • Although mistletoe plants and berries are considered poisonous to humans, few serious side effects have been associated with mistletoe extract use.
    The use of mistletoe as a treatment for cancer has been investigated in more than 30 clinical studies. Reports of improved survival and/or quality of life have been common, but nearly all of the studies had major weaknesses that raise doubts about the reliability of the findings.
  • At present, the use of mistletoe cannot be recommended outside the context of well-designed clinical trials. Such trials will be valuable to determine more clearly whether mistletoe can be useful in the treatment of specific subsets of cancer patients.

Many of the medical and scientific terms used in this summary are hypertext linked (at first use in each section) to the NCI Dictionary, which is oriented toward nonexperts. When a linked term is clicked, a definition will appear in a separate window. All linked terms and their corresponding definitions will appear in a glossary in the printable version of the summary.
Reference citations in some PDQ CAM information summaries may include links to external Web sites that are operated by individuals or organizations for the purpose of marketing or advocating the use of specific treatments or products. These reference citations are included for informational purposes only. Their inclusion should not be viewed as an endorsement of the content of the Web sites or of any treatment or product by the PDQ Cancer CAM Editorial Board or the National Cancer Institute (NCI).

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