I was surprised to read this headline in the Sunday Times on 23 December. It appears that NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde had referred 47, and NHS Lothian had sent 42 patients for Mistletoe therapy at the Centre for Integrative Care at Gartnavel hospital. The article also stated there were two clinics in England as offering treatment "with possible NHS funding". The article states "patients in Scotland are being treated with an extract of the plant in the hope it can boost the body's immune system...
"An assessment by the NHS specialist pharmacy service found that laboratory testing of mistletoe indicated potential benefits, but there is currently no compelling evidence to support the use of mistletoe extracts in cancer therapy."
"Stefan Gelder, of the Camphill Wellbeing Trust in Aberdeen, a charity that offers the therapy, said it had helped some people. Claimed benefits include more energy and better appetites. His experience was that mistletoe has with some people but not all - an impact on tumour reduction."
I found this reference on the hospital website:
Mistletoe treatment in cancer patients
Cochrane review April 2008. Preparations from the European mistletoe (Viscum album L.) are among the most prescribed drugs in cancer patients in several European countries. Proponents claim that mistletoe extracts stimulate the immune system, improve survival, enhance quality of life and reduce adverse effects of chemo- and radiotherapy in cancer patients. The review found that there was not enough evidence to reach clear conclusions about the effects on any of these outcomes and it is therefore not clear to what extent the application of mistletoe extracts translates into improved symptom control, enhanced tumour response or prolonged survival. Adverse effects of mistletoe extracts were reported, but appeared to be dose-dependent and primarily confined to reactions at injection site and mild, transient flu-like symptoms. In the absence of good quality, independent trials, decisions about whether mistletoe extracts are likely to be beneficial for a particular problem should rely on expert judgement and practical considerations. Authors' conclusions: The evidence from RCTs to support the view that the application of mistletoe extracts has impact on survival or leads to an improved ability to fight cancer or to withstand anticancer treatments is weak. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that mistletoe extracts may offer benefits on measures of QOL during chemotherapy for breast cancer, but these results need replication. Overall, more high quality, independent clinical research is needed to truly assess the safety and effectiveness of mistletoe extracts. Patients receiving mistletoe therapy should be encouraged to take part in future trials.