Can mistletoe improve life of cancer patients?
London: Scientific trials will be carried out to test whether mistletoe, an evergreen parasitic plant can help improve the quality of life for cancer patients by boosting their immune systems.
The Aberdeen University pilot study will be overseen by cancer specialist Professor Steven Heys, from the university`s medical school.
The study will be run jointly with Camphill Medical Practice in Aberdeen, which regularly offers cancer patients mistletoe therapy, the BBC News reported.
It will involve women with breast cancer.
Mistletoe grows on the branches of trees, where it forms pendent bushes, 2 to 5 feet in diameter.
Dr Stefan Geider, a GP at the Camphill practice, said some patients who have had mistletoe injections had noticed an impact on their wellbeing.
"We see an increase in energy levels, less fatigue, good appetite, better sleeping, high motivation, from my clinical experience," he said.
"From seeing patients on a regular basis, my experience is that mistletoe has, with some people - although not with all - an impact on tumour reduction," he was quoted by the BBC.
However, he said it was important people realised that it was not a miracle cure.
"Mistletoe has to my experience helped a lot of patients tremendously, both in terms of quality of life as well as life expectancy," he said.
"But it does not work for everybody - it`s not a miracle cure. We need to find out why the mistletoe works for some people, and not for others - that`s why we need the trials," he added.
Many in the medical profession do not believe mistletoe has any effect on cancer, and think it should not be prescribed, citing a lack of good quality evidence.
"There isn`t any evidence that mistletoe does have an anti-cancer effect, in terms of prolonging the life of patients," cancer specialist Professor Heys, said.
"What it does do, possibly, is improve the quality of life of patients with breast cancer who are having chemotherapy. Therefore I think it`s important to look and evaluate that and study it, in very good randomised controlled trials, conducted in a very controlled setting," he said.