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Mistletoe May Aid Fight Against Colon Cancer, New Study Shows

Update Date: Dec 24, 2012 12:41 PM EST

Mistletoe might not just be useful for sharing that first romantic kiss during the holiday season, but according to new research, scientists has discovered that mistletoe extract is effective in killing colon cancer cells.

Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia have found that mistletoe aids the effectiveness of chemotherapy, or can even act as an alternative to chemotherapy for treatment of colon cancer, according to Newswise.

"This is an important result because we know that chemotherapy is effective at killing healthy cells as well as cancer cells. This can result in severe side effects for the patient, such as oral mucositis (ulcers in the mouth) and hair loss," study researcher Zahra Lotfollahi said in a statement.

Mistletoe cancer research is generally still incomplete, though some trials have shown a benefit for some people with certain cancers. The National Cancer Institute reported that the results of a trial testing the effect of mistletoe in non-small cell lung cancer patients is still begin analyzed.

"Our laboratory studies have shown Fraxini mistletoe extract by itself to be highly effective at reducing the viability of colon cancer cells," Lotfollahi said in the statement. "At certain concentrations, Fraxini also increased the potency of chemotherapy against the cancer cells."

Meanwhile, human clinical studies on mistletoe and cancer have been conducted in Europe, primarily in Germany. In a number of studies, mistletoe has demonstrated efficacy against cancer. However, critics in the United States regard these studies as either too small or improperly designed.

In one study conducted between 1993 and 2000, researchers examined the use of a mistletoe extract by the brand name Iscador in 800 patients with colorectal cancer. They were all treated with chemotherapy and/or radiation therapy. Researchers found the patients treated with Iscador had fewer adverse events, better symptom relief and improved disease-free survival compared to patients who did not receive the mistletoe extract as adjuvant therapy.

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