In 2017, Pembrolizumab became the first site-agnostic drug approved by the FDA. This means that rather than treating a cancer based on its site of origin (for example, colon cancer vs. breast cancer), the appropriate medication would be selected based on the genetics of the tumour. This exciting news is just the latest in a series of advances in the field of targeted therapies to arise in recent years, which include immunotherapies, monoclonal antibodies, and tyrosine kinase inhibitors.
However, these new drugs do not come without serious risk. Most people are familiar with the side effects and potential toxicities of chemotherapy (such as nausea/vomiting, hair loss, fatigue and anemias), and are eager to consider alternative strategies to fight cancer. While side effect profiles from targeted therapies can vary quite considerably versus chemotherapies, the potential benefits they may offer can still come at the cost of toxicity.
This makes the recent study from Thronicke et. al all the more exciting. Published in September of 2018, the authors studied the use of targeted therapies alone versus in combination with a botanical extract of mistletoe, Viscum album.They concluded that combining targeted therapies with mistletoe reduced the number adverse events associated with the drugs.
Specifically, they found that adverse events were reported in 19.8% of patients in the drug group, and only 9.2% in the combination mistletoe group, a statistically significant reduction. Additionally, they found that the combination group also experienced significantly fewer treatment delays, as only 5.3% of subjects in the drug group experienced an uninterrupted course of treatment, compared with 54.1% of those in the combination group. But perhaps most importantly, they found a reduction in the need to abort treatment due to adverse events. 60.5% of subjects in the drug group had to discontinue treatment for this reason versus just 35% in the combination group.
At the IHC Cancer Care Centre, we regularly use mistletoe to support patients during their standard of care. It continues to provide patients with a safe and effective way to augment their treatments.
To learn more about mistletoe therapy, visit out website or discuss with your naturopathic cancer care provider.
Read the full study here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6164814/
Naturopathic Doctor at the Integrated Health Clinic