Mistletoe Extract: Cancer Therapy?

By Dr. Mitchell Gaynor Founder and President, Gaynor Integrative Oncology Asst. Clinical Professor of Medicine, Weill-Cornell Medical College

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Cancer is a scary diagnosis. There’s no doubt about that. Treatment is not just about removing the tumor and providing chemotherapy (although those are important aspects of healing cancer patients) – it’s about the whole patient. As an integrative oncologist, I emphasize treating the person and not just cancer. I incorporate conventional medicine using chemotherapy, monoclonal antibodies, and targeted therapies with nutritional forms of treatment to create unique therapeutic regimens for my patients.

Recently, Suzanne Somers appeared on The Dr. Oz Show to discuss the cancer treatments she used to treat her breast cancer. One of the adjuvant therapies she discussed was her use of mistletoe extract injections. Although it’s not FDA-approved in the US, it is used in some clinical research trials and occasionally prescribed in Europe by anthroposophic physicians. 

Mistletoe: More than Holiday Décor

Mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant that receives it nourishment by growing on apple, birch, elm, maple, oak, pine and several other trees. The plant contains chlorophyll and is capable of undergoing photosynthesis. Its use extends far beyond being a symbol of an impromptu holiday kiss – it has medicinal purposes as well. It been used to treat medical conditions such as arthritis, epilepsy, hypertension, menopause and even cancer. Mistletoe has a plethora of medicinal applications that date back to Ancient Greece. However, it started to gain attention as a chemotherapeutic agent in the 1920s.

The Science Behind the Effects of Mistletoe

Cancer, in the simplest terms, is a group of cells that are unable to die like normal cells. Our cells go through a process called apoptosis, which means cell death. This is the checks and balances our body uses to remove old cells that may not be up to par. And without apoptosis, old cells, which are not at their optimal state, don’t function as well as new cell. This leads to impaired functions and systems can begin to fail in the body. 

Dr. Mitchell Gaynor

Article written by Dr. Mitchell Gaynor
Founder and President, Gaynor Integrative Oncology Asst. Clinical Professor of Medicine, Weill-Cornell Medical College