Mistletoe and Immunomodulation: Insights and Implications for Anticancer Therapies

Shiao Li Oei et al.

In early tumor development, cancer cells develop a plethora of strategies to escape surveillance from the adaptive and innate immune system. Cancer immunotherapies, in particular immune checkpoint inhibitors, are becoming a highly promising cancer therapeutic approach that has remarkable increased progress in combating various cancer types. Unfortunately, their mechanisms of action induce some complications, such as inflammatory reactions and immune-related adverse events. In the management of side effects during anticancer therapy, complementary and integrative therapy approaches are becoming of growing interest. Particularly, mistletoe, Viscum album L. (VA), has a long traditional history of about 100 years as an add-on therapy of cancer treatment in German-speaking countries. Besides antitumoral and quality of life-promoting activities, VA applications reduce side effects of modern conventional anticancer therapies and exert immunomodulatory characteristics. As these properties may provide a good basis for a combination with modern oncological therapies, the biological activities of VA applications and mechanisms involved have to be understood. In this review, the impact of VA compounds on different cellular pathways and immunological reactions in the fight against cancerous cells is discussed.

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