Researchers have found a potential new use for mistletoe that could mean a new way to treat colon cancer. Scientists at University of Adelaide in Australia are exploring extracts from the plant as a potential treatment.
The plant extracts could be used along with conventional chemotherapy or as a less toxic alternative to fight the second leading cause of cancer deaths in the Western world.
According to background information from a media release, mistletoe extract is already approved in Europe but not in the U.S. and Australia because scientific studies are lacking.
For her research, University of Adelaide, Health Sciences student Zahra Lotfollahi compared 3 different types of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy in the lab; testing the extract on colon cancer cells.
Lotfollahi also compared how mistletoe extract and chemotherapy affect healthy cells in the intestines.
One extract from the species Fraxini that grows on Ash trees was more potent than chemotherapy drugs for destroying colon cancer and less toxic to healthy colon cells.
"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," Lotfollahi said in a press release.”
In other studies, Fraxini boosted the effect of chemotherapy. Used alone, it was ‘highly effective’ for reducing colon cancer cell survival.
The researchers are planning more studies to find out exactly how mistletoe extract eradicates colon cancer.
The hope is that more studies will lead to clinical trials in humans and provide a less toxic alternative therapy to fight the disease.
According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 142,672 Americans were diagnosed with the disease in 2007.
Mistletoe that can be found hanging in most doorways at Christmas could become an important alternative and less toxic option for eradicating colon cancer.