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Mistletoe is a traditional remedy and panacea dating back to the time of the ancient Greeks and the Druids. Nowadays it is the most widely used cancer drug in Germany, where it was introduced as a cancer treatment in 1917 by Rudolph Steiner, founder of anthroposophy. Since the 1960s, there have been at least 30 trials of mistletoe. These indicate that mistletoe not only has a directly toxic effect on cancer cells, but also stimulates the bodily immune system to deal with cancer cells. A number of studies have indicated extended survival times for patients treated with mistletoe extracts. Substances in European mistletoe also affect the heart. Low concentrations can lower blood pressure and heart rate, while higher levels can cause the contraction of blood vessels, and thus possibly raise the blood pressure.

Of the several species of mistletoe, only Viscum album, the white-berried European mistletoe, is used therapeutically. Mistletoe's anti-cancer properties are believed to arise from its toxic constituents, viscotoxins and lectins. Because of its toxicity, mistletoe extract needs to be prepared by carefully controlled processes. Extracts are administered either orally or by subcutaneous injection. Because of the negative indications and potential side effects, it is wise to seek professional medical advice before using any mistletoe extract. It is also worth bearing in mind that mistletoe belongs to the ivy family, to which some people are allergic. European mistletoe extracts are sold under brand names such as Iscador, Isorel, Vysorel, and Helixor.

US Pharmacist
– An excellent and comprehensive summary of mistletoe and its uses as an anti-cancer agent.

National Cancer Institute
– A good, brief summary of mistletoe research.

– A summary of mistletoe research, with information on its potential side effects and when not to take it (e.g. it can cause miscarriages).

– A summary of mistletoe research in simple language.

Mistletoe Extracts and Cancer Therapy – Reviews the book Iscador, by Robert Gorter, giving details of mistletoe's anti-cancerous properties and the method used for making the extract known as Iscador.

Physicians' Association for Anthroposophical Medicine
– “Use of Iscador, an extract of European mistletoe (Viscum album), in cancer treatment.” This is the research paper detailing the Iscador trial mentioned above.

Park Attwood Clinic – A private clinic near Kidderminster in Worcestershire, UK, specializing in anthroposophical medicine, including the use of mistletoe.

Cat's Claw

The two closely related species of the thorned vine known as cat's claw (Uncaria tomentosa and
Uncaria guianensis), are traditional herbal remedies from the Amazon rainforest. The popular use of cat's claw as a folk medicine has prompted a number of scientific studies into its efficacy. Although more research is required, it seems clear that the herb has potent immuno-booster properties, and may thus be useful for cancer patients. Other properties claimed for cat's claw include pain relief, inflammation reduction, blood cleansing, bowel cleansing, and the reduction of both blood pressure and cholesterol. It is also said to kill cancer and leukemia cells, and to be diuretic, antioxidant, and antiviral.

Cat's claw contains several groups of phytochemicals that account for most of these properties. Firstly, there is a group of oxidole alkaloids with documented immuno-stimulant and antileukaemic properties. Then there are quinovic acid glycosides, which are anti-inflammatory and antiviral. Antioxidants (tannins, catechins and procyanidins) as well as plant sterols (beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol, and campesterol) also account for the plant's anti-inflammatory properties. And the plant's carboxyl alkyl esters have demonstrated immuno-stimulant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancerous, and cell-repairing properties (Raintree Nutrition).

Tropical Plant Database
– An excellent and detailed overview.

University of California, Moores Cancer Center
– A brief overview.

Pure Health Systems
– An overview from a US supplier.

Artemesinin – Wormood

Artemesinin (
Artemesia annua L., known in China as qing hao su or QHS) is extracted from the Chinese herb, qing hao, known in the West as sweet wormwood or sweet Annie, a herb not to be confused with common or bitter wormwood (Artemisia absinthium L.). The story behind its discovery as a cancer drug must be unique. The recipe for the remedy was found among ancient medical recipes discovered in a tomb dating back to 168 BCE during an archaeological dig in China during the 1970s. According to one of these recipes, the ancient Chinese used an extract of wormwood to combat malaria. Artemesinin was first isolated in l972, and synthesized in 1983. As an anti-malaria remedy, artemesinin has subsequently been well-researched and is widely used with considerable success in Asia and Africa.

Artemesinin reacts with the high iron concentrations found in the malaria parasite, forming free radicals (charged atoms and molecules). The free radicals then disrupt the cell membranes of the single-celled parasite, causing their demise. Considering this process, two professors at the University of Washington, Henry Lai and Narendra Singh, began to wonder whether the same process could bring about the destruction of cancer cells. Cancer cells contain a high level of iron, since they require a considerable quantity to replicate DNA when they divide. Lai and Singh's idea was to boost the iron levels in cancer cells, and then to kill them selectively using artemesinin. To achieve this they used a combination of the blood plasma iron-carrying protein, transferrin. Cancer cells have a large number of transferrin receptors on their surfaces. In this way, the artemesinin is delivered to the cancer cells together with the iron it needs for successful cancer-cell destruction. Lai and Singh have observed that artemesinin-tagged transferrin is particularly potent in destroying cancer cells.

Their initial laboratory trials on breast cancer cells were surprisingly effective. 75% of cancer cells were killed within 8 hours, and nearly all of the remainder within 16 hours. An earlier experiment with leukaemia cells was even more impressive: all cancer cells were destroyed within 8 hours. A possible reason for this could be the iron level in leukaemia cells, which have more than 1000 times the iron concentration of normal cells – one of the highest iron levels among cancer cells. In fact, a study with tumour-implanted rats indicated that only when artemesinin was administered along with iron was tumour growth inhibited. Despite positive anecdotal evidence, few other animal and no human clinical trials have yet to be conducted. In fact, because cancer cells thrive on iron, many physicians are reluctant to try artemesinin with iron supplementation.

Artemesinin crosses the blood-brain barrier and may therefore be useful for fighting brain tumours. The same is true of Poly-MVA. For the same reason, extremely high doses, way above those that are clinically advised, can be neurotoxic. Long-term toxicity of much smaller doses is not presently known. In treatments of this nature, it always needs to be remembered that positive laboratory in vitro studies do not always translate into positive animal studies, and positive animal studies may not be reflected in positive human studies.

Science Daily – “Ancient Chinese Folk Remedy May Hold Key To Non-Toxic Cancer
Treatment.” An introductory article.

Cancer Salves – An introduction to the original research of Lai and Singh, although the article contains some errors, detailed after it. The roots of the Chinese herb dong quai (Angelica sinensis) or yellow dock (Rumex crispus) are suggested as the best ways to boost iron levels, if required.

Alpha Omega Labs – An fair overview from a previous US manufacturer of the product, who were forcefully closed down in 2003. An interesting website, with many insights into the machinations of the cancer industry.

Minnesota Wellness Directory – An overview, with dosage suggestions, contra-indications, and so on.

Cancer Decisions – Dr Ralph Moss presents a cautious appraisal of artemesinin (2003), and a critical review of a report on the use of artemesinin in the Townsend Newslettter of December 2002.

New Horizons – “Cancer Smart Bomb: An Idea from Ancient Chinese Medicine, Part I.” A readable in-depth article written in consultation with Henry Lai. Ditto, Part II.

Life Sciences – The original research paper presented by professors Henry Lai and Nahendra Singh from the University of Washington.

Artemesinin in Cancer Treatment – A presentation by Dr Nahendra Singh.

Anticancer Research – “Synergistic cytotoxicity of artemisinin and sodium butyrate on human cancer cells.” Further in vitro research by Lai and Singh, indicating that artemesinin and sodium butyrate (an anti-cancer short-chain fatty acid produced by anaerobic bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract during the normal fermentation of dietary fibre) can act synergistically to provide enhanced destruction of cancer cells.

Expert Opinion on Therapeutic Targets – “Targeted treatment of cancer with artemisinin and artemisinin-tagged iron-carrying compounds.” Lai and Singh's research on the efficacy of artemesinin-tagged transferrin.

Jonathan Treasure – “Sweet Annie & Artemisinin: Selective Bibliography.” A useful selection of papers.

Alternative Vetinarian – Artemesinin for dogs.

University of Washington – A conservative disclaimer, advising against the use of artemesinin in the fight against cancer until fuller studies have been completed, with a full list of references to all the relevant scientific studies. Such disclaimers are presumably essential for legal reasons, and to protect the university's reputation against allegations of making unsubstantiated claims.

MyVitaNet – An inexpensive US source of artemesinin, produced by Allergy Research Group.

Green Tea

Green tea contains a number of substances known as polyphenols, 90% of which are classed as catechins, the main ones in green tea being catechin, gallocatechin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, epicatechin gallate, and epigallocatechin gallate (also known as EGCG). This family of compounds have been shown to possess cancer-fighting properties, and to be useful cancer preventative agents. Of these, EGCG is the most active, and is the most widely studied.

Black tea is made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis, which have been allowed to stand in the air for some time before processing and packaging, during which time they start to ferment. Green tea is made from leaves preserved by other means, usually steaming or baking. The two processes produce a different chemical cocktail, and thus different flavours and medicinal properties. Also, the longer the fermentation process, the less the concentration of polyphenols, and higher the caffeine content. Green tea contains about a third to a half the caffeine content of black tea.

Green tea is widely consumed in China and Japan, where a number of epidemiological studies have concluded that its consumption results in a significantly reduced risk of cancer. Life Extension Magazine comments,
“One of the most striking studies on green tea was done by a group of Japanese researchers on women who had been treated for breast cancer. Analysis six years later of women with stage I or II breast cancer showed that those who drank five or more cups of green tea a day slashed their risk of recurrence almost in half. This is equivalent to approximately 200 to 400 mg of EGCG. Furthermore, the researchers found that the more green tea a woman drank before she got cancer, the fewer metastases to lymph nodes she would have (if she was premenopausal). Women who engage in the Japanese tea ceremony are half as likely to die not only from breast cancer but from any cause, according to researchers who followed them for eight years.”

The anti-cancer properties of EGCG are the focus of a great many research studies. A search among the published literature reveals that over 100 such studies were published in 2005 alone. Also, a number of clinical trials are currently underway, investigating the response of a number of different kinds of cancer to green tea extract. EGCG's anti-cancer properties are believed to be wide-ranging. As well as powerful antioxidative properties (
which are greater than vitamins C and E), it is thought to inhibit the action of carcinogens, induce the natural death (apoptosis) of cancer cells, inhibit the inter-cell signalling that switches on cancer genes, inhibit the expression of COX-2 and other enzymes involved in the development of cancer, regulate bodily immune and inflammatory responses, and inhibit production of the VEGFs (vascular endothelial growth factors) required for the growth of blood vessels to developing tumours.

As a cancer-fighting substance, far larger quantities of the active catechins are required than can be consumed by drinking a few cups of green tea per day. Hence the popularity of green tea extracts. However, the quality of such extracts can vary considerably, and it is advisable to source an extract in which the concentration of catechins/polyphenols (especially EGCG), is standardized. And if you don't want to consume a large quantity of caffeine, then choose a decaffeinated extract.

The side effects of green tea include weight loss, and various effects associated with caffeine. People with heart or kidney problems, stomach ulcers, stress-related problems, or who want to avoid the stimulating effects of caffeine, are therefore better off with decaffeinated green tea or extract. Caffeine also interacts with various pharmaceutical products, including heart and blood pressure drugs, oral contraceptives, sedatives, and drugs used for depression. Large quantities of green tea have also been shown to interact with blood-thinning drugs like aspirin and warfarin. People on these kinds of medication should
consult with their doctor before taking green tea. Pregnant or breast-feeding women should also avoid green tea.

American Institute for Cancer Research – “Green Tea: What It Is and Why It’s Studied.”

Life Extension Magazine – “Anticancer Foods and Supplements.” A useful review, including a section on black tea and green tea.

CLL Topics
– A discussion of green tea dosage and toxicity, especially in relation to CLL (chronic lymphocytic leukaemia) patients, with reference to some research studies, with EGCG Clinical Trial Results.

Leukemia Research
– “Clinical effects of oral green tea extracts in four patients with low grade B-cell malignancies” (2005). Case studies of four CLL patients at the Mayo clinic, where a positive response was reported.

– “VEGF receptors on chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) B cells interact with STAT 1 and 3: implication for apoptosis resistance” (2005). Concerns the VEGF-inhibitory effect of EGCG.

Leukemia Research – “Natural products and the treatment of leukemia” (2006).

Pro-Health Green Tea EGCG Extreme – Presently the most concentrated, readily available, decaffeinated green tea extract.

For Your Health – A UK supplier of standardized, decaffeinated green tea extract.

Organic Pharmacy
– A US supplier of standardized, decaffeinated green tea extract.


Citral is the lemon-scented substance found in a number of herbs, such as lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus), citronella (Cymbopogon nardus, a blue-green perennial grass), lemon balm or melissa (Melissa officinalis), and lemon verbena (Verbena officinalis). It is also present in eucalyptus. Citral is used extensively as the lemon scent in household products such as insect repellants, washing-up liquid etc. In research conducted at the University of Negev, published in May 2005, citral has also been shown to cause the self-destruction (apoptosis) of cancer cells in a cell culture. It is therefore likely to be a possible cancer preventative agent. However, citral has also been shown to cause benign prostate enlargement (in rats), and to inhibit the binding of oestrogen to oestrogen receptors in cell cultures. Its use may therefore be something of a mixed blessing.

PubMed – The May 2005 research from the University of Negev, Israel, on citral and apoptosis in cancer cell cultures.

PubMed – The research concerning citral and benign prostate enlargement and oestogen inhibition.

Spirulina and Chlorella

Spirulina and chlorella are blue-green algae, commercially grown and used in dried, powdered form as high quality nutritional supplements. They are high in all the essential amino acids (around 60%), beta-carotene, chlorophyll, and other nutrients. As regards their specific efficacy against cancer, there are only a few actual research studies. Some significant positive research has been conducted into the immuno-boosting properties of spirulina, and in a modest study spirulina has been seen to provide significant protection against oral cancer among chewers of tobacco. In animal experiments, chlorella has demonstrated antitumor and antimetastatic properties. It has also shown positive indications of immuno-boosting, as well as protection against the negative effects of radiotherapy and chemotherapy. Both seem able to mediate the removal of carcinogens from the system. All-in-all, as chlorophyll-based nutritional supplements, they appear to be more effective and to hold out more hope as therapeutic agents than wheatgrass. Dosage recommendations vary from 1 gm per day of each to 20 or 30 gms, depending, it seems, on the enthusiam of the writer!

University of Maryland Medical Center – An excellent overview of spirulina – uses, sources, available forms, how to take it, precautions, possible drug interactions, and supporting research.

HEALL – Summaries of spirulina anti-cancer studies.

InteliHealth – Summarizes the claims made for spirulina, bring the hype down to earth.

UC Davis Medical Center – Study showing that spirulina boosts the immune system.

PR Newswire – Reports on a Japanese study showing that spirulina strengthens the immune system.

Cancer Decisions Newsletter
– An article in praise of spirulina. Details some of the research in layman's terms, though the claims are unreferenced.

Spirulina Health Library – Effects of spirulina on cancer, the AIDS virus and the immune system.

News Target
– Discussion of spirulina research into the treatment of breast cancer, the AIDS and others viruses.

Earthrise – A major supplier of spirulina to the world market, based in California, also sponsoring and conducting research.

The Moss Reports – “Chlorella Shows Promise as an Anti-Cancer Agent.” A introductory overview.

PDR Health – A good overview of chlorella studies, including its therapeutic effects, research, contraindications, dosage, etc.

The Watershed – Frequently asked questions concerning chlorella.

Taylor & Francis – Search for “chlorella” to find 215 research studies, a few of which relate to cancer.

or PubMed – “Protective effect of an acidic glycoprotein obtained from a culture of Chlorella vulgaris against myelosuppression by 5-fluorouracil (5FU).” Chlorella counteracts the immuno-suppression of the chemotherapy drug 5FU.

Natural Ways
An introduction to the health benefits of chlorella by a major supplier of Chinese medicinal herbs and nutritional supplements.

Overview of some scientific studies concerning chlorella by a supplier of nutritional supplements.

Superfoods For Optimum Health: Chlorella and Spirulina
– Free online book by spirulina and chlorella enthusiast, Mike Adams.

– Mike Adams's recommended US sources of spirulina and chlorella.

Aloe Vera

Aloe vera
has long been used in traditional herbal medicine for healing external wounds and burns. It is also claimed to heal internal lesions of the digestive tract. Taken orally, aloe vera gel or juice is a harsh stimulant laxative. Administered intravenously, it has caused the death of patients. It is claimed by some alternative practitioners to boost the immune system (although no cancer curative properties have been reported in scientific literature). As such, it is said to minimize damage done to normal healthy cells by chemotherapy and radiotherapy. Currently, there appear to be no scientific studies either supporting or contradicting these claims.

Moores Cancer Center, University of California – “Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Cancer Patients: Aloe vera.” A useful overview.

Quackwatch – “Some Notes on Aloe vera.” A good overview.

Milk Thistle

The primary role of milk thistle (Silybum marianum) is liver support and detoxification during chemotherapy. However, research shows that milk thistle also inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells.
“The active substance in milk thistle, silymarin, is a mixture of flavinoids, primarily consisting of 4 isomers: silibinin (also known as silybinin), isosilybinin (also known as isosilibinin), silychristin (also known as silichristin), and silydianin (also known as silidianin). Laboratory studies demonstrate that silymarin functions as a potent antioxidant, stabilizes cellular membranes, stimulates detoxification pathways, stimulates regeneration of liver tissue, inhibits the growth of certain cancer cell lines, exerts direct cytotoxic activity toward certain cancer cell lines, and may increase the efficacy of certain chemotherapy agents. Human clinical trials have investigated milk thistle or silymarin primarily in individuals with hepatitis or cirrhosis. No clinical trials in individuals with cancer have been published” (National Cancer Institute).

National Cancer Institute – A good overview of milk thistle, including its use in the treatment of cancer.

Home Herbs – A UK supplier of herbs and nutritional supplements, including milk thistle.

Total Cure – A UK supplier of herbs and nutritional supplements, including milk thistle.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA)

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) is a fatty acid found in some sources of dietary fat, particularly beef and milk. In the early 1980s, Michael Pariza and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin discovered that CLA inhibits cancer growth. This research has since been corroborated and extended by further studies, which have demonstrated that CLA can suppress cancer development in animals and in human cancer cell cultures. Animal studies have also shown CLA to be effective against artherosclerosis, and diabetes (through increased insulin sensitivity). The latter effect also balances the ratio of fatty to muscle tissue, resulting in weight loss, an effect much hyped by the nutritional supplements industry to sell CLA to the overweight. Note, however, that some caution is indicated by a study in 2002 of abdominally obese men, which showed that CLA actually their increased insulin resistance.

It is thought that CLA is produced with the help of bacteria in the cows' stomachs. A study of CLA concentrations in milk under various feeding regimes revealed that cows allowed to graze freely on grass had three to five times as much CLA in their milk fat as cows fed typical supplemented dairy diets. Skimmed or reduced fat milk (organic or otherwise) will almost certainly contain less CLA that organic whole milk. This is another indication that the current pandemic proportions of cancer are at least partly related to the absence of essential nutrients in our modern diet.

The dosage recommedation is usually 1000 mgs, two to three times daily. If you are vegetarian or vegan, it is worth enquiring as to the source of the CLA, and the capsules in which it comes. Tonalin CLA, for example, for example, is converted by a chemical process from the linoleic acid found in safflower oil, but comes in gelatin capsules, since vegetarian capsules don't hold fluids very well.

WiseGeek – An introductory overview.

Life Extension Magazine – A brief (October 1999) overview of the cancer-inhibitory effects of CLA.

Midvalleyvu Farms – A good overview from a dairy farm.

Eat Wild – A brief overview from a site devoted to pasture-based farming.

PDRHealth – A scientific overview of CLA research. Lists CLA studies up to the year 2000.

Health-n-Energy – A useful overview by a vendor.

Modified Citrus Pectin (MCP)

Pectin is a soluble complex polysaccharide (carbohydrate) found as a part of the fibrous structure of many plants, especially citrus fruits. In the food industry, it is used as a gelling agent in jams and puddings, such as jelly. It is also used as an ingredient in some cosmetics and anti-diarrhoea medicines. In nature, it functions as a kind of intracellular glue holding cells together. Orange peel, for instance, is comprised of 30% pectin.

MCP is a chemically modified form of pectin. In 1992, researchers at the Michigan Cancer Foundation published the results of a study in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, which indicated that MCP “significantly decreased” the spread (metastasis) of melanoma and prostate cancer cells in rats. Similar results have subsequently been obtained from other animal studies, concerning breast and colon cancer. Some small and uncontrolled human studies have also shown that MCP may inhibit the spread of melanoma and prostate cancer.

MCP has no effect on the growth of primary tumours. Secondary tumours develop through the adhesion of roaming cancer cells to each other and to other organs by means of ‘sticky' protein molecules, known as galectin-3. MCP inhibits this sticking process by preferentially binding to the sticky molecules. Under the influence of MCP, cancer cells lose their stick. Hence, the metastasis of all cancers that spread by means of galectin-3 may be inhibited by MCP.

University of California, Moores Cancer Center – A short readable overview.

Vitamin Research Products – A good, and reasonably up-to-date (2002) overview from a US vendor.

American Cancer Society – A brief overview.

The Moss Reports – “Modified Citrus Pectin Prevents Prostate Cancer Spread in Animals”. A balanced overview.

Life Extension Magazine (March 2004) – A brief overview.

Copyright John Davidson, 2006, 2008, 2012

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