By Dr. Nasha Winters, ND, FABNO, L.Ac.
As I anticipate attending the 2018 annual fundraiser for Believe Big on Saturday, April 21st, I reflect on where this organization has been, where they are going, and the incredible work they are doing to support clinical research of mistletoe extract.
Believe Big is a nonprofit organization dedicated to bridging the gap between conventional and complementary medicine in the treatment of cancer. The organization was founded in 2011 by Ivelisse and Jimmy Page, after Ivelisse’s experience with stage IV colon cancer.
One of Believe Big’s initiatives in recent years has been to raise funds for the first-ever mistletoe clinical trial in the United States. Each spring, Believe Big puts on an annual fundraising dinner to help reach their goals. I was the keynote speaker at the 2016 annual fundraiser, and the mistletoe clinical trial was launched a year later—on March 1, 2017.
Mistletoe also goes by its scientific name, Viscum album. It is unique in that it does not have roots but instead survives by growing on trees. Mistletoe contains viscotoxins, lectins, and polysaccharides that have been shown to support healthy immune function, induce apoptosis (cell death) of tumor cells, and support quality of life.
Mistletoe extract is widely prescribed for patients with cancer in Europe but lesser known in the United States. Mistletoe is available from clinicians who are trained in its proper use, but until now there have been no clinical trials in the United States.
As a naturopathic physician, I began recommending mistletoe to my patients in 2006. I have since taught many other practitioners to do the same. I have seen that people respond to intravenous (IV) infusions of mistletoe with almost immediate effect. Within a matter of days, I see their pain lessen and their overall sense of well-being lift. This is a therapy that consistently makes people feel better.
About the Mistletoe Clinical Trial
The mistletoe clinical trial that is supported by Believe Big is currently underway at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The study is a Phase I clinical trial. This means that it involves a small sample of participants and aims to determine the safety, toxicity, tolerable dose, and preliminary efficacy of mistletoe in patients with cancer.
To be eligible for the trial, participants must have a solid tumor with stage IV cancer. Mistletoe extract, with the brand name of Helixor®M, will be delivered via 3-hour IV infusions on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday each week. The trial will continue for 3 years.
The mistletoe clinical trial includes 2 phases. During the first phase, mistletoe will be administered in increasing dosages to determine its safety and toxicity. During the second phase, mistletoe will be administered with the goal of determining preliminary information about how well it works. The hope is that mistletoe will not only shrink tumors but also improve quality of life.
I have seen mistletoe benefit many people with cancer and am excited to share this information far and wide. I am in the process of writing a book about mistletoe therapy with my colleague, Dr. Christina Compton, ND. The book is scheduled to release in the fall of 2018. Stay tuned!
Keynote Address at the 2016 Believe Big Fundraiser:
Show Your Support
If you would like to donate to Believe Big and support the important work they do, you can do so on their website: BELIEVE BIG.
PDQ Integrative A, and Complementary Therapies Editorial Board. Mistletoe Extracts (PDQ®): Health Professional Version. PDQ Cancer Information Summaries. Bethesda (MD): National Cancer Institute (US); 2002.
Dose Escalating Trial of Mistletoe Extract in Patients With Advanced Solid Tumors. Clinical Trials.gov identifier (NCT number): NCT03051477