Mistletoe in oncological treatment: a systematic review : Part 1: survival and safety

J Cancer Res Clin Oncol. 2019 Mar;145(3):695-707. doi: 10.1007/s00432-018-02837-4. Epub 2019 Jan 23.


Purpose: Mistletoe treatment of cancer patients is discussed highly controversial in the scientific literature. Aim of this systematic review is to give an extensive overview about current state of research concerning mistletoe therapy of oncologic patients regarding survival, quality of life and safety.

Methods: In September and October 2017 Medline, Embase, Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), PsycINFO, CINAHL and "Science Citation Index Expanded" (Web of Science) were systematically searched.

Results: The search strategy identified 3647 hits and 28 publications with 2639 patients were finally included in this review. Mistletoe was used in bladder cancer, breast cancer, other gynecological cancers (cervical cancer, corpus uteri cancer, and ovarian cancer), colorectal cancer, other gastrointestinal cancer (gastric cancer and pancreatic cancer), glioma, head and neck cancer, lung cancer, melanoma and osteosarcoma. In nearly all studies, mistletoe was added to a conventional therapy. Patient relevant endpoints were overall survival (14 studies, n = 1054), progression- or disease-free survival or tumor response (10 studies, n = 1091). Most studies did not show any effect of mistletoe on survival. Especially high quality studies do not show any benefit.

Conclusions: With respect to survival, a thorough review of the literature does not provide any indication to prescribe mistletoe to patients with cancer.

Keywords: Cancer; Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM); Mistletoe; Patient-relevant outcomes.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mistletoe*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / mortality


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic