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Eur J Med Res. 1998 Apr; 3(4): 194-202.

Modulation of the cellular and humoral immune responses of tumor patients by mistletoe therapy.

Stein G, Henn W, von Laue H, Berg P.

Krebsforschung Herdecke, Department of Applied Immunology, Communal Hospital, Beckweg 4, Herdecke, D-58313, Germany.

There is evidence from recent data that mistletoe extracts exert immunostimulatory properties which could explain their therapeutic effects observed in some tumor patients. Aim of our study was, therefore, to investigate the effect of a subcutaneous 16-weeks therapy with a mistletoe extract (ABNOBAviscum Mali, AM) on the cellular and humoral immune responses in eight breast cancer patients. Mistletoe therapy induced a strong initial proliferation of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) in all individuals, which, however, decreased in six patients during the observation period, indicating that not only activating but also inhibitory mechanisms have been induced. In all supernatants of AM-stimulated cell cultures TNF-alpha or IL-6 were found, indicating the activation of cells of the monocyte-/macrophage lineage by mistletoe extracts. Further analyses revealed, that AM induced in vitro also the release of low amounts of IFN-gamma and IL-4 with individual variations. At the end of the therapy, a shift to Th1- related cytokines could be observed in the in vitro cell culture system. All patients produced anti-mistletoe lectin 1 antibodies of the IgG-type during therapy and in four of them additionally antibodies of the IgE-type were found. It, therefore, seems that AM can influence the Th1/Th2 balance and, in case of a Th1 shift, this may favourably influence the tumor growth.

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