Efficacy and safety of Viscum album extract (Helixor-M) to treat malignant pleural effusion in patients with lung cancer

Support Care Cancer. 2019 May;27(5):1945-1949. doi: 10.1007/s00520-018-4455-z. Epub 2018 Sep 14.


Purpose: Manifestations of malignant pleural effusions (MPEs) are alleviated by local therapies as well as by systemic treatment. After 2009, when commercial use of talc was discontinued in Korea, we have used Helixor-M, which is derived from the European mistletoe (Viscum album), as an alternative sclerosing agent for pleurodesis. We aimed to evaluate the efficacy and safety of Helixor-M for controlling MPE.

Methods: Between 2009 and 2015, we consecutively enrolled 52 patients with lung cancer, who underwent pleurodesis to treat MPE and were analyzed retrospectively. On day 1, 100 mg of Helixor-M was instilled via pleural catheter. If the procedure was not effective, it was repeated every other day up to five times, and the dose increased each time by 100 mg. The primary study outcome was reappearance of pleural effusion at 1 month after the last pleurodesis procedure.

Results: The median age of patient was 63 years, and 77% of the 52 patients were male. About 85% of pleural effusions were found to be malignant by cytogenetic analysis. Forty-two (81%) patients were evaluable for recurrence of MPE. The 1-month recurrence rate was 48% (20/42). Among the 20 patients who developed recurrent MPE, 6 required therapeutic thoracentesis. Thirteen (25%) patients experienced procedure-related pain requiring medication. Eight (15%) had fever > 38 °C.

Conclusions: Our results suggest that a pleurodesis with Helixor-M was an effective and tolerable procedure for controlling MPE in lung cancer patients.

Keywords: Malignant pleural effusion; Pleurodesis; Viscum album.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Drainage / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / complications*
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Lung Neoplasms / pathology
  • Lung Neoplasms / therapy*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / drug therapy
  • Plant Extracts / administration & dosage*
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / drug therapy*
  • Pleural Effusion, Malignant / pathology
  • Pleurodesis / methods
  • Republic of Korea
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Viscum album / chemistry


  • Plant Extracts
  • Helixor