ISCADOR
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | June 5, 2001

In the past month, we have received many calls at Better Life Unlimited regarding the use of an herbal preparation called ISCADOR® for cancer treatment. This influx of calls has been the result of television personality Suzanne Somers discussing her choice for treating breast cancer in the television and print media. After her diagnosis, she had surgery and radiation but decided to forego chemotherapy and to use ISCADOR instead. Naturally, people facing similar challenges want to know what ISCADOR is and whether they should consider using it for their form of cancer.

ISCADOR is the trade name for an extract of a species of European Mistletoe (Viscum Album). Used for many years in Europe, it is not well known in the United States. In the United States, a homeopathic version is sold as a prescription drug under the brand name Iscar®. The typical treatment uses multiple injections near the cancer site. In a recent review, the Task Force on Alternative Therapies of the Canadian Breast Cancer Research Initiative considered the efficacy of ISCADOR in treating breast cancer (1). They concluded that benefits based on human studies are inconclusive and that further research is warranted due to the poor design of previous studies. Larger scale clinical trials are underway in Europe and are planned for the United States.

Recently, the results of one of those large-scale studies were published in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine (2). The most compelling result of this epidemiological study was that breast cancer patients treated with conventional therapy and ISCADOR had a better survival rate—an average of one year longer. Similar results were found in other forms of cancer as well. It is interesting to note that the authors concluded that treatment with ISCADOR enhanced the patients' self-regulation. Simply put, they felt they were in control of their disease, and that may be the most significant finding. Other studies on cancer patients have demonstrated that those that are proactive in dealing with their disease live longer.

One of the problems most healthcare professionals had with Ms. Somers's treatment choice was that she used it in place of chemotherapy rather than as a complementary treatment. In a CNN interview, Dr. Susan Love, Medical Director of the Susan Love MD Breast Cancer Foundation, said, "The implication is it (ISCADOR) is just as good and just as proven, and that it is a viable alternative to chemotherapy. That's really not so right now."

The question most people have is "Should I use ISCADOR (Iscar) for my cancer?" The answer is complex. You should discuss all treatment options with your physician. We have a tendency to think all cancers are the same, but they are not. Your treatment plan will depend on the type of cancer, the location, the stage, and whether it has spread to other parts of the body. Your oncologist is the person best equipped to recommend treatment options. If you want to explore alternative options, discuss them with your treatment team.

At Better Life Unlimited, we encourage you to take charge of your health and do all you can to prevent disease. The same applies to treating disease once diagnosed: use the best of all forms of treatment that keep you in charge of your health.

References:

  1. Kaegi, E. Unconventional therapies for cancer: 3. Iscador. Canadian Medical Association Journal 158:1157-9, 1998.
  2. Gossart-Maticek, R et al. Use of Iscador, an extract of European Mistletoe (Viscum Album) in Cancer Treatment.
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