Unconventional Therapies

Unconventional therapies for mesothelioma, which include alternative and complementary treatments, include any non-traditional approach to treatment that uses dietary supplements, meditative practices or untested medical therapy. Nontraditional treatments are often administered along with more conventional therapies. In these cases, they are referred to as “complementary” treatments. As many as 70 percent of cancer patients use some type of complementary therapy, though little documentation of mesothelioma patients and their use of this therapy exists. Alternative treatments refer to those which are intended to replace established treatments, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy.

The list of alternative and complementary therapies is rather extensive and can be broken up into two different sections: manual healing and mind, body and spirit. Other alternative treatments include simply supplementing one’s diet with natural vitamins and minerals. These should only be used under a doctor’s supervision. Listed below are some alternative therapy dietary supplements that are known to have been used specifically for mesothelioma.

Vitamin C

Nobel Prize winner Linus Pauling was a major advocate of the effectiveness of vitamin C as an alternative treatment for cancer. However, the use of vitamin C is actually one of the most controversial of the alternative treatments. Working with a doctor in Scotland, Pauling treated cancer patients with vitamin C. They reported outstanding results, but other studies using vitamin C stated that it had no effect.

Pauling stood by his belief in the effectiveness of vitamin C. He based his beliefs on the fact that the vitamin plays a major role in several biochemical reactions inside the body. It is essential for increasing the effectiveness of the immune system and helping to create collagen, which is a protein that connects and supports tissues like tendons, ligaments, and cartilage. Collagen also helps to strengthen muscles, blood vessels, and bones. He believed that collagen helps to prevent cancer from metastasizing.


This compound is partially synthetic and comes from greater celandine, a fairly common weed. It contains a series of alkaloids and is combined with a chemotherapy drug called Thiotepa to make Ukrain, which is given to patients intravenously. It has been used in clinical studies on people with bladder, colorectal, breast, and pancreatic cancer. A review of those studies revealed that patients did experience curative effects, but the methodology of the studies was flawed.  More rigorous research is needed before solid conclusions can be drawn.


Iscador is a brand name for an extract of a species of mistletoe found in Europe. Mistletoe has been used for hundreds of years to treat various illnesses. Those who support the use of Iscador for cancer believe that it can change the make-up of cancer cells, accelerate the immune system, and improve a patient’s well-being. All these things can extend the survival of patients with ovarian, cervical, breast, stomach, colon, and lung cancer.  A 2001 study of over 10,000 cancer patients in Germany revealed that those treated with Iscador lived an average of 40% longer than those who did not take it — 4.23 years compared to 3.05 years.


The root of the Astragalus plant that is found in China has been used medicinally for thousands of years to restore energy. Today, the Chinese believe that an injection of Astragalus in combination with chemotherapy can slow the growth of tumors, boost immune function, and relieve some of the adverse effects of chemotherapy. A review of 34 separate astragalus trials concluded that the herb may increase the effectiveness of platinum-based chemotherapy, but more trials are needed.

Cat’s Claw

This South American vine whose scientific name is Uncaria tormentosa has tiny thorns at the base of each leaf that resemble cat’s claws. Peruvian folk medicine practitioners have been using it for many years to treat cancer, arthritis, gastritis, and even epidemic diseases.  The findings from conventional studies done on cat’s claw are conflicting, although a 1998 study confirmed its anti-inflammatory and antimutagenic effects.