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Mistletoe Extract Injections Mimic Metastatic Cancer

Patient-administered homeopathic remedy caused abdominal mass

MONDAY, Dec. 25 (HealthDay News) -- A lymphoma patient who self-administered mistletoe extract injections developed an inflammatory non-malignant abdominal mass that mimicked metastatic malignancy, according to a case report in the Dec. 23 issue of BMJ.

Alison Finall, of Cardiff and Vale NHS Trust in Cardiff, Wales, and colleagues microscopically analyzed the 4x2x2 cm subcutaneous tissue mass, which was removed from the 61-year old woman. She had injected subcutaneous aqueous whole plant mistletoe extract (Abnoba viscum fraxini) as complementary therapy to treat her lymphoma, which was diagnosed in April 2001, and was stable after five chemotherapy cycles. She had injected 20 mg three times weekly for 12 months before presentation.

Microscopic evaluation showed a large proportion of eosinophils and normal lymphocytes. Immunohistochemistry confirmed normal T cell and B cell distribution. Further tests confirmed a reactive lymphoid infiltrate with no sign of follicular lymphoma. Lymphocytes and eosinophils, present within small blood vessel walls, indicated vasculitis.

"In summary, we found no evidence of malignancy after the tissue was examined microscopically on multiple levels," the authors conclude. "Mistletoe has been tested extensively as a treatment for cancer, but the most reliable randomized controlled trials fail to show benefit, and some reports show considerable potential for harm," according to an accompanying editorial.

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