Posted on Dec 21, 2012, 6 a.m.
A symbol of Christmas, mistletoe has the potential to play a vital role as an alternative therapy for people affected by colon cancer.
Colon cancer is the second greatest cause of cancer death in the Western world. Mistletoe has become an important symbol of Christmas, and mistletoe extract is authorized for use for colon cancer in Europe. Zahra Lotfollahi, from the University of Adelaide (Australia) compared the effectiveness of three different types of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on colon cancer cells. She also compared the impact of mistletoe extract and chemotherapy on healthy intestinal cells. In her laboratory studies, she found that one of the mistletoe extracts -- from a species known as Fraxini (which grows on ash trees) -- was highly effective against colon cancer cells in cell culture and was gentler on healthy intestinal cells compared with chemotherapy. Significantly, Fraxini extract was found to be more potent against cancer cells than the chemotherapy drug. Lotfollahi reports that: "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, Fraxini also increased the potency of chemotherapy against the cancer cells,” continuing that: “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.”