Mistletoe therapy in oncology ( Review )

  • Horneber M
  • Bueschel G
  • Huber R
 et al. 
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Background Mistletoe extracts are commonly used in cancer patients. It is claimed that they improve survival and quality of life (QOL) in cancer patients. Objectives To determine the effectiveness, tolerability and safety of mistletoe extracts given either as monotherapy or adjunct therapy for patients with cancer. Search methods Search sources included the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL, Issue 3, 2007) Cochrane Complementary Medicine Field Registry of randomized clinical trials (RCTs) and controlled clinical trials, MEDLINE, EMBASE, HEALTHSTAR, INT.HEALTHTECHNOLOGYASSESSMENT, SOMED,AMED,BIOETHICSLINE, BIOSIS,CancerLit,CATLINE,CISCOM (August 2007). For the search the StandardOperating Procedures of the Information SysteminHealth Economics at theGerman Institute forMedical Documentation and Information (DIMDI) were utilized. Reference lists of relevant articles and authors extensive files were searched for additional studies.Manufacturers of mistletoe preparations were contacted. Selection criteria We included randomised controlled trials (RCTs) of adults with cancer of any type. The interventions were mistletoe extracts as sole treatments or given concomitantly with chemo- or radiotherapy. The outcome measures were survival times, tumor response, QOL, psychological distress, adverse effects from antineoplastic treatment and safety of mistletoe extracts. Data collection and analysis Three review authors independently assessed trials for inclusion in the review. All review authors independently took part in the extraction of data and assessment of study quality and clinical relevance.Disagreements were resolved by consensus. Study authors were contacted where information was unclear.Methodological quality was narratively described and additionally assessed with the Delphi list and the Jadad score. High methodological quality was defined if six out of nine Delphi criteria, or four out of five Jadad criteria were fulfilled. Results were presented qualitatively. Main results Eighty studies were identified. Fifty-eight were excluded for various reasons, usually as there was no prospective trial design with randomisedtreatment allocation.Of the 21includedstudies13 provideddata onsurvival,7ontumour response, 16 onmeasuresofQOL or psychological outcomes, or prevalence of chemotherapy-related adverse effects and 12 on side effects of mistletoe treatment; overall comprising 3484 randomised cancer patients. Interventions evaluated were 5 preparations of mistletoe extracts from 5 manufacturers and one commercially not available preparation. The general reporting of RCTs was poor. Of the 13 trials investigating survival, 6 showed some evidence of a benefit, but none of themwas of highmethodological quality. The results of two trials in patients with melanoma and head and neck cancer gave some evidence that the used mistletoe extracts are not effective for improving survival. Of the 16 trials investigating the efficacy of mistletoe extracts for either improving QOL, psychological measures, performance index, symptomscales or the reduction of adverse effects of chemotherapy, 14 showed some evidence of a benefit, but only 2 of themincluding breast cancer patients during chemotherapy were of higher methodological quality. Data on side effects indicated that, depending on the dose, mistletoe extracts were usually well tolerated and had few side effects. Authors’ conclusions The evidence from RCTs to support the view that the application of mistletoe extracts has impact on survival or leads to an improved ability to fight cancer or to withstand anticancer treatments is weak. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that mistletoe extracts may offer benefits onmeasures ofQOL during chemotherapy for breast cancer, but these results need replication.Overall,more high quality, independent clinical research is needed to truly assess the safety and effectiveness of mistletoe extracts. Patients receiving mistletoe therapy should be encouraged to take part in future trails.

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  • M Horneber

  • G Bueschel

  • R Huber

  • K Linde

  • M Rostock

  • Markus Horneber

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