Medicine: Iscador

I often treat cancer with Iscador, an alternative and nontoxic therapy made from a lacto-fermented extract of mistletoe (Viscum album L.) This treatment is one of the most extensively studied complementary medical therapies, particularly in Europe where it has been used as an adjunctive therapy for solid tumor cancers. An early 2005 study confirms the safety of complementary Iscador therapy in patients with high-risk melanoma. Equally important, the Iscador users had a significantly improved length and quality of survival and fewer distant metastasis than those who didn’t use Iscador. See below to link to the abstract or download a Booklet (PDF format) about the study.

Because I like to provide information to people to help them better understand their conditions and their options, I have included below a selection of papers, studies and trials that have been conducted using mistletoe extract therapy. Click on the link at Abstract to read the full abstract at the National Center for Biotechnology Information’s National Library of Medicine website, At the bottom of this page, I also include several other websites with additional information and links on Iscador and cancer therapy.

I have had numerous requests from patients who are undergoing treatment for cancer, particularly Iscador therapy, who would like to talk with other patients about their experiences. We want to act as a conduit to put people in touch with one another so they can get more information and share stories. The focus of this discussion forum is on patients and their experiences. It will be wholly the effort of those who have an interest. I will not be involved in any way except as the initial facilitator for putting people together through a confidential email exchange.

Please note that this material is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to replace consultation with a doctor.

Selected Papers Abstracts link to NCBI’s National Library of Medicine PubMed site

[Safety and efficacy of the long-term adjuvant treatment of primary intermediate- to high-risk malignant melanoma (UICC/AJCC stage II and III) with a standardized fermented European mistletoe (Viscum album L.) extract. Results from a multicenter, comparative, epidemiological cohort study in Germany and Switzerland.] Augustin M, Bock PR, Hanisch J, Karasmann M, Schneider B Department of Dermatology, University Hospital, University of Freiburg, Freiburg/Brsg (Germany)

Arzneimittelforschung. 2005;55(1):38-49. 

Booklet (PDF format)

The objective of the study was to evaluate the safety and therapeutic efficacy of a long-term mistletoe therapy with Iscador within the scope of post-operative treatment in patients with mean- to high-risk primary malignant melanoma by comparison with a untreated parallel control group. Conclusion: a long-term Iscador treatment in patients with mean- to high-risk primary malignant melanoma appears to be safe.

PMID: 15727163

[Efficacy and safety of long-term complementary treatment with standardized European mistletoe extract (Viscum album L.) in addition to the conventional adjuvant oncologic therapy in patients with primary non-metastasized mammary carcinoma. Results of a multi-center, comparative, epidemiological cohort study in Germany and Switzerland] [Article in German] Bock PR, Friedel WE, Hanisch J, Karasmann M, Schneider B. Institut fur Angewandte Gesundheitsforschung, IFAG Basel AG, Basel, Schweiz.

Arzneimittelforschung. 2004;54(8):456-66. 

Booklet (PDF format)

A study to evaluate the therapeutic efficacy and safety of long-term complementary therapy in primary, non-metastatic mammary carcinoma patients in UICC stage I-III with a standardized European mistletoe extract given in addition to conventional adjuvant oncologic therapy.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial, Multicenter Study, Randomized Controlled Trial

PMID: 15460213

Impact of complementary mistletoe extract treatment on quality of life in breast, ovarian and non-small cell lung cancer patients. A prospective randomized controlled clinical trial. Piao BK, Wang YX, Xie GR, Mansmann U, Matthes H, Beuth J, Lin HS.Guang An Men Hospital, Beijing, China. 

Anticancer Res. 2004 Jan-Feb;24(1):303-9.

This study showed that complementary treatment with sME can beneficially reduce the side-effects of chemotherapy in cancer patients and thus improve quality of life.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial, Multicenter Study, Randomized Controlled Trial

PMID: 15015612

Differential effects of Viscum album extract Iscador(R)Qu on cell cycle progression and apoptosis in cancer cells. Harmsma M, Gromme M, Ummelen M, Dignef W, Tusenius KJ, Ramaekers FC. Department of Molecular Cell Biology, University of Maastricht, 6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.

Int J Oncol. 2004 Dec;25(6):1521-9. 

This study tested the hypothesis that Iscador(R)Qu, an aqueous fermented extract from the European mistletoe grown on oaks, induces tumor regression by cell cycle inhibition and/or interference with apoptotic signaling pathways in cancer cells.

PMID: 15547686

Critical role of reactive oxygen species and mitochondrial membrane potential in korean mistletoe lectin-induced apoptosis in human hepatocarcinoma cells. Kim WH, Park WB, Gao B, Jung MH. Division of Metabolic Disease, Department of Biomedical Science, National Institutes of Health, #5 Nokbun-dong, Eunpyung-gu, Seoul 122-701, South Korea.  

Mol Pharmacol. 2004 Dec;66(6):1383-96. Epub 2004 Aug 31.

Viscum album L. coloratum agglutinin (VCA), isolated from Korean mistletoe, is a strong inducer of apoptosis in a variety of tumor cells; however, the underlying molecular mechanisms responsible are not clear. This study shows that VCA induces apoptotic killing.

PMID: 15340045

Influence of postoperative complementary treatment with lectin-standardized mistletoe extract on breast cancer patients. A controlled epidemiological multicentric retrolective cohort study. Schumacher K, Schneider B, Reich G, Stiefel T, Stoll G, Bock PR, Hanisch J, Beuth J. Institut fuer Biometrie, Medizinische Hochschule Hannover, Konstanty-Gutschow-Str. 8, 30625 Hannover, Germany.

Anticancer Res. 2003 Nov-Dec;23(6D):5081-7.

This epidemiological study was performed to evaluate the influence of postoperative complementary treatment with lectin-standardized mistletoe extract (sME) on breast cancer patients.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial, Multicenter Study, Randomized Controlled Trial

PMID: 14981970

Mistletoe and gemcitabine in patients with advanced cancer: a model for the phase I study of botanicals and botanical-drug interactions in cancer therapy. Mansky PJ, Grem J, Wallerstedt DB, Monahan BP, Blackman MR. National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD 20892-2669, USA

Integr Cancer Ther. 2003 Dec;2(4):345-52.


While the clinical efficacy of mistletoe in cancer is being investigated, toxicity and potential interactions of mistletoe with standard chemotherapeutic agents are unknown.

PMID: 14713326

Phase II study of viscum fraxini-2 in patients with advanced hepatocellular carcinoma.Mabed M, El-Helw L, Shamaa S.Hematology and Medical Oncology Unit, Faculty of Medicine, Mansoura University, Mansoura, Egypt

Br J Cancer. 2004 Jan 12;90(1):65-9.

This study was conducted to evaluate the efficacy and safety of viscum fraxini-2 in patients with chemotherapy-naive, advanced hepatocellular carcinoma.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial; Clinical Trial, Phase II

PMID: 14710208

The influence of isorel on the advanced colorectal cancer.Cazacu M, Oniu T, Lungoci C, Mihailov A, Cipak A, Klinger R, Weiss T, Zarkovic N. The 4th Surgical Clinic–University of Medicine and Pharmacy Iuliu Hatieganu, Romania.

Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 2003 Feb;18(1):27-34.

A study of a therapeutical approach of surgery and chemotherapy combined with biotherapy by Viscum album extract Isorel, aiming to improve the patients’ resistance to the disease and to render the treatment’s side effects more tolerable.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial, Randomized Controlled Trial

PMID: 12667306

[Blood and tissue eosinophilia, mistletoe lectin antibodies and quality of life in a breast cancer patient undergoing intratumoral and subcutaneous mistletoe therapy] [Article in German]Kroz M, Schad F, Matthes B, Pickartz H, Girke M. Forschungsinstitut Havelhohe am Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus Havelhohe, Germany.

Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2002 Jun;9(3):160-7.

Study of Mistletoe therapy (MT) as a method of complementary medicine, using high-dose intratumoral application. Publication Types: Case Reports

PMID: 12119512

Mistletoe viscotoxins increase natural killer cell-mediated cytotoxicity. Tabiasco J, Pont F, Fournie JJ, Vercellone A. Institut National de la Sante et de la Recherche Medicale U563 and Service de spectrometrie de masse de l’ IFR 30, CHU Purpan, BP3028, Toulouse, France.

Eur J Biochem. 2002 May;269(10):2591-600. 

Study to show that nontoxic concentrations of Viscum album extracts increase natural killer (NK) cell-mediated killing of tumor cells but spare nontarget cells from NK lysis.

PMID: 12027898

Induction of apoptosis of endothelial cells by Viscum album: a role for anti-tumoral properties of mistletoe lectins.Van Huyen JP, Bayry J, Delignat S, Gaston AT, Michel O, Bruneval P, Kazatchkine MD, Nicoletti A, Kaveri SV. INSERM U430, Hopital Broussais, Paris, France.

Mol Med. 2002 Oct;8(10):600-6.

Study that tests the hypothesis that VA extracts induce endothelial cell death and apoptosis.

PMID: 12477970

[Frequency of the common cold in healthy subjects during exposure to a lectin-rich and a lectin-poor mistletoe preparation in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study] [Article in German]Huber R, Klein R, Ludtke R, Werner M. Ambulanz fur Naturheilverfahren/Abteilung Innere Medizin II, Universitatsklinikum Freiburg i.Br.

Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. 2001 Dec;8(6):354-8.

Mistletoe preparations have immunomodulatory properties in vitro and in vivo. This study investigates whether or not these properties have an effect on the frequency of the common cold in healthy subjects.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial, Randomized Controlled Trial

PMID: 11799303

Use of Iscador, an extract of European mistletoe (Viscum album), in cancer treatment: prospective nonrandomized and randomized matched-pair studies nested within a cohort study.Grossarth-Maticek R, Kiene H, Baumgartner SM, Ziegler R.Institute for Preventive Medicine, European Center for Peace and Development, United Nations, Heidelberg, Germany.

Altern Ther Health Med. 2001 May-Jun;7(3):57-66, 68-72, 74-6 passim.

Study to determine whether Iscador treatment prolongs survival time of patients with carcinomas and to explore synergies between Iscador treatment and psychosomatic self-regulation.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial, Multicenter Study, Randomized Controlled Trial

PMID: 11347286

Potentiation of tumor necrosis factor-alpha-induced apoptosis by mistletoe lectin.Pae HO, Seo WG, Oh GS, Shin MK, Lee HS, Lee HS, Kim SB, Chung HT. Department of Microbiology and Immunology, Wonkwang University School of Medicine, Iksan, Korea. Immunopharmacol Immunotoxicol. 2000 Nov;22(4):697-709.

Mistletoe lectins (MLs) constitute the active principle in extract preparations from mistletoe, commonly used as immunomodulator in adjuvant tumor therapy.

PMID: 11105782

[Mistletoe extracts in the therapy of malignant, hematological and lymphatic diseases–a monocentric, retrospective analysis over 16 years] [Article in German] Stumpf C, Rosenberger A, Rieger S, Troger W, Schietzel M.Forsch Komplementarmed Klass Naturheilkd. Krebsforschung Herdecke e.V., Gemeinschaftskrankenhaus Herdecke. 2000 Jun;7(3):139-46.

A study to investigate potentials risks of treatment with mistletoe extracts in patients with malignant haematological and lymphatic diseases.

PMID: 10899748

Activation of c-Jun N-terminal kinase 1 (JNK1) in mistletoe lectin II-induced apoptosis of human myeloleukemic U937 cells.Park R, Kim MS, So HS, Jung BH, Moon SR, Chung SY, Ko CB, Kim BR, Chung HT. Department of Microbiology, Professional Graduate School of Oriental Medicine, Wonkwang University School of Medicine, 570-749, Iksan Chonbuk, South Korea.Biochem Pharmacol. 2000 Dec 1;60(11):1685-91.

Study of extracts of mistletoe (Viscum album var. coloratum) and the mechanism by which the plant extracts kill tumor cells has remained elusive.

PMID: 11077051

Biological effects of natural and recombinant mistletoe lectin and an aqueous mistletoe extract on human monocytes and lymphocytes in vitro.Elsasser-Beile U, Voss M, Schuhle R, Wetterauer U. Department of Urology, University of Freiburg, Germany.Clin Lab Anal. 2000;14(6):255-9.

A study that compares the immunological potency of different well-defined mistletoe lectin preparations on human immune cells.

PMID: 11138605

Hypereosinophilia induced by high-dose intratumoral and peritumoral mistletoe application to a patient with pancreatic carcinoma. Huber R, Barth H, Schmitt-Graff A, Klein R. Center for Complementary Medicine, Department of Gastroenterology, University of Freiburg, Germany.J Altern Complement Med. 2000 Aug;6(4):305-10.

Study of a patient with inoperable adenocarcinoma of the pancreas treated with intraperitumoral and peritumoral injections of a mistletoe extract.

Publication Types: Case Reports

PMID: 10976976

Antitumoral effects of an intravesically applied aqueous mistletoe extract on urinary bladder carcinoma MB49 in mice.Mengs U, Schwarz T, Bulitta M, Weber K. Madaus AG, Ostmerheimer Strasse 198, D-51109 Koln, Germany.Anticancer Res. 2000 Sep- Oct;20(5B):3565-8.

Study to investigate the effects of a locally applied aqueous mistletoe extract on the growth of urinary bladder carcinoma.

PMID: 11131663

Tolerability of an extract of European mistletoe among immunocompromised and healthy individuals. Gorter RW, van Wely M, Reif M, Stoss M. University of California, San Francisco, USA. Altern Ther Health Med. 1999 Nov;5(6):37-44, 47-8.

Study to determine the toxicity profile and biochemical effects of a Viscum album extract.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial, Review, Tutorial

PMID: 10550904

Insulin-secreting activity of the traditional antidiabetic plant Viscum album (mistletoe). Gray AM, Flatt PR. School of Biomedical Sciences, University of Ulster, Coleraine, Northern Ireland BT52 1SA, UK. J Endocrinol. 1999 Mar;160(3):409-14.

Study of effects and presence of insulin-releasing natural product(s) in Viscum album which may contribute to the reported antidiabetic property of the plant.

PMID: 10076186

[Mistletoe therapy from the pharmacologic perspective] [Article in German] Hajto T, Hostanska K, Saller R. Abteilung Naturheilkunde, Departement Innere Medizin, Universitatsspital Zurich, Schweiz. Forsch Komplementarmed. 1999 Aug;6(4):186-94.

Study of experimental data that suggest that the mistletoe lectins Viscum album agglutinin (VAA)-I and -II are play an important role in the efficacy of mistletoe therapy.

Publication Types: Review, Academic Review

PMID: 10529578

[Iscador QuS and human recombinant interferon alpha (Intron A) in cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN)] [Article in Polish] Jach R, Basta A. Katedry i Kliniki Ginekologii i Onkologii Collegium Medicum Uniwersytetu Jagiellonskiego w Krakowie. Przegl Lek.1999;56(1):86-8 

The aim of this work was the evaluation of the Iscador QuS and Intron A role in the management of HPV associated CIN.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial, Controlled Clinical Trial

PMID: 10375935

Direct and rapid induction of migration in human CD4+ T lymphocytes within three-dimensional collagen matrices mediated by signalling via CD3 and/or CD2. Nikolai G, Niggemann B, Werner M, Zanker KS, Friedl P. Institute of Immunology, University of Witten/Herdecke, D-58448 Witten, Germany. Immunology. 1998 Sep;95(1):62-8.

Study of specific activation of T cells which require stable cell-cell interaction; however, little is known how the transition from a previously motile state into a sessile state following activation is achieved.

PMID: 9767458

[What prospects of success does Iscador therapy offer in advanced ovarian cancer?] [Article in German] Hassauer W, Gutsch J, Burkhardt R. Onkologie. 1979 Feb;2(1):28-36. 

A study of the carcinostatic effect of Iscador in the treatment of carcinoma of the ovary.

Publication Types: Clinical Trial

PMID: 392367

[Investigation to improve the survival of patients with bronchial carcinomas “radically operated” (author’s transl)] [Article in German] Salzer G.Z Erkr Atmungsorgane. 1975 Feb;142(2):127-31. 

Postoperative treatment (using Iscador) of patients with successfully resected bronchial carcinoma is described.

PMID: 1226878

Weleda’s website has useful information on their product, Iscador, including information on published data and articles.

The Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients (October 2002)

Article on Mistletoe Extracts & Cancer Therapy