Mistletoe is a semiparasitic plant that grows on several types of common trees such as apple, oak, pine, and elm. Mistletoe extract has been used since ancient times to treat many ailments (see Question 1).
Mistletoe is one of the most widely studied complementary and alternative medicine therapies in people with cancer. In certain European countries, preparations made from European mistletoe are among the most prescribed drugs for patients with cancer (see Question 1).
For patients with stage I dysgerminoma, unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy conserving the uterus and opposite ovary is accepted treatment of the younger patient who wants to preserve fertility or a pregnancy. Postoperative lymphangiography or CT is indicated before treatment decisions are made for patients who have not had careful surgical and pathological examination of pelvic and para-aortic lymph nodes during surgery. (Refer to the PDQ summary on Sexuality and Reproductive Issues for more information on fertility.)
Patients who have been completely staged and have stage IA tumors may be observed carefully after surgery without adjuvant treatment. About 15% to 25% of these patients will relapse, but they can be treated successfully at the time of recurrence with a high likelihood of cure.
Incompletely staged patients or those with higher stage tumors should probably receive adjuvant treatment. Options include radiation therapy or chemotherapy. A disadvantage of the former is loss of fertility resulting from ovarian failure. Experience with adjuvant chemotherapy is limited, but considering the effectiveness of chemotherapy in tumors other than dysgerminoma and in advanced stage dysgerminoma, adjuvant chemotherapy is likely to be very effective and to allow recovery of reproductive potential in patients with an intact ovary, fallopian tube, and uterus.
Other Germ Cell Tumors
Standard treatment options:
Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy with adjuvant chemotherapy.
Unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy followed by observation.
For patients with stage I germ cell tumors, unilateral salpingo-oophorectomy should be performed when fertility is to be preserved. For all patients with tumors other than pure dysgerminoma and low-grade (grade I) immature teratoma, chemotherapy is usually given postoperatively, although a series demonstrated excellent survival for patients with all types of stage I tumors managed by surveillance, reserving chemotherapy for cases in which postsurgery recurrence is documented.[Level of evidence: 3iiiA]
There is considerable experience with a combination of vincristine, dactinomycin, and cyclophosphamide (VAC) given in an adjuvant setting; however, combinations containing cisplatin, etoposide, and bleomycin (BEP) are now preferred because of a lower relapse rate and shorter treatment time. While a prospective comparison of VAC versus BEP has not been performed, in well-staged patients with completely resected tumors, relapse is essentially unheard of following platinum-based chemotherapy. However, the disease will recur in about 25% of well-staged patients treated with 6 months of VAC.