Small Study Shows Promise for Mistletoe Extract as Cancer Therapy
A recent phase 1 trial conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center has shown that intravenous mistletoe extract, known as Helixor M, may be a promising cancer therapy. While the trial was primarily focused on evaluating the drug’s safety, researchers also observed improved quality of life and some disease control among study participants with advanced and treatment-resistant cancers.
What is Mistletoe Extract?
Mistletoe extract is a semi-parasitic plant with several active ingredients that have been shown in preclinical studies to directly cause the death of tumor cells and stimulate an immune response. It has been used in Europe for several decades as a complementary medicine approach to cancer treatment alone or combined with chemotherapy and radiation therapy. However, there has been a lack of clinical trials and data to support its use.
The phase 1 trial used dose escalation to determine the maximum dose that patients could safely tolerate. ME was delivered intravenously thrice weekly until disease progression or until toxicity. The study concluded that the safe dose was 600 milligrams. The median follow-up duration on mistletoe was 15.3 weeks. Stable disease was observed in five patients and lasted, on average, for 15 weeks. Tumors in three participants decreased in size and remained stable for two to five months. Patients also reported an overall improved quality of life via a questionnaire. The most common side effects reported were fatigue, nausea, and chills, which were noted as manageable.
Additional phase 2 studies combined with chemotherapy are the next step, pending additional funding. In addition, laboratory research to decipher ME’s mechanisms better is needed, as the cytokines (cell-signaling proteins) measured in this study are preliminary and hypothesis-generating.
While mistletoe extract is not currently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for cancer treatment in the United States, this small study shows promise for its use as a complementary medicine approach. Further research is needed to determine its efficacy and safety in larger clinical trials.
This article was originally published by Johns Hopkins University and republished via Futurity.org.
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