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Effects of mistletoe on cancer patients to be studied in Aberdeen

Image caption Dr Stefan Geider said it was important people realised mistletoe was not a miracle cure for cancer

Scientific trials are to test whether mistletoe can help boost the immune system of cancer patients.

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.

It will involve women with breast cancer.

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."

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."

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.

'Quality of life'

Cancer specialist Prof Heys said: "There isn't any evidence that mistletoe does have an anti-cancer effect, in terms of prolonging the life of patients.

"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 many of his patients were now using alternative treatments alongside traditional ones.

"A recent study we conducted last year showed that 70% of patients were taking complementary or alternative medicines," he said.

"Given that, I think it's important to be able to understand if mistletoe does have effects on quality of life so that we can present that to patients."

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