December 23, 2012
Mistletoe Could Help Cancer Patients Kiss The Disease Goodbye
redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online
While it has become an iconic symbol of holiday romance, mistletoe may contain a substance that could help in the treatment of colon cancer, researchers from the University of Adelaide in Australia discovered in a recent study.
The research, which was featured in a Huffington Post article published Friday, discovered the plant's extract was actually more effective in eliminating colon cancer cells than chemotherapy. Furthermore, the mistletoe lacked chemotherapy's harsh, healthy cell-killing side effects.
Researcher Zahra Lotfollahi, who completed the study as part of an honors research project at the South Australian school, applied various types of mistletoe extracts to colon cancer cells, and discovered the most effective seemed to have come from the Fraxini species of mistletoe that usually grows on ash trees, the publication added. As a result, Lotfollahi believes the substance could be used with -- or instead of -- traditional cancer treatments.
"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 had previously said in a statement.
"Our laboratory studies have shown Fraxini mistletoe extract by itself to be highly effective at reducing the viability of colon cancer cells. At certain concentrations," she added. "Fraxini also increased the potency of chemotherapy against the cancer cells“¦ Of the three extracts tested, and compared with chemotherapy, Fraxini was the only one that showed a reduced impact on healthy intestinal cells. This might mean that Fraxini is a potential candidate for increased toxicity against cancer, while also reducing potential side effects."
Lotfollahi admits additional laboratory testing will be required to verify her findings. However, Professor Gordon Howarth, one of her advisors and a Cancer Council Senior Research Fellow at the university, told UPI mistletoe extract has already been approved to treat colon cancer in Europe, though not in Australia or the US as of yet.
"Although mistletoe grown on the ash tree was the most effective of the three extracts tested, there is a possibility that mistletoe grown on other, as yet untested, trees or plants could be even more effective," Howarth said. "This is just the first important step in what we hope will lead to further research, and eventually clinical trials, of mistletoe extract in Australia."