Mistletoe and cancer treatment

Mistletoe preparations are sometimes used as CAM to treat solid cancers such as breast cancer.

Here are statistics on the use of mistletoe to treat cancer, the results of a recently published clinical study in women with breast cancer, and a review of the medical literature.

The British Medical Journal reports?

  • In continental Europe, at least 30 different mistletoe preparations are available.
  • In Europe, the annual cost of this mistletoe treatment is about £30m (E45m; $59m).
  • In Germany, the insurance system pays for this treatment.
  • More than 140,000 websites promote or mention mistletoe as a treatment for cancer.

Yet, there are few clinical trials on its use.

One recently published study in women with breast cancer (some treated with mistletoe, other not) reported a “clinically relevant” effect on breast tumor progression as measured by overall survival and time to recurrences.

Overall, the evidence supporting the use of mistletoe is weak. A review of the mistletoe literature several years ago found that most studies were not well designed.

And while some weaker studies implied benefits, particularly in quality of life, well-designed studies of mistletoe extracts failed to demonstrate benefits from this therapy.

Merry Christmas and happy holidays.
12/21/06 21:57 JR

Hi, I’m JR

John Russo, Jr., PharmD, is president of The MedCom Resource, Inc. Previously, he was senior vice president of medical communications at, a complementary and alternative medicine website.