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Fever and Cancer


Therapeutic Hyperthermia is used in combination with mistletoe therapy to treat cancer in Anthroposophic hospitals

“Give me a fever, and I can cure any illness.” — Hippocrates

Relating fever to cancer with an Anthroposophic understanding is a long journey though our recent and modern scientific literature provides fascinating supporting insights. Warmth is the expression of our human I (our spirit) activity. Having cold feet or hands is a sign of difficulty to properly take hold of the physical body, put simply- to incarnate.

Fever as “I am” process

Infection is a process well known to be associated with fever. In these cases the I organism attempts to take hold of the physical body and transform it. The body temperature rise comes out of the metabolic pole- muscle movement warms the body and muscles perform their best at a higher body temperature. Athletes warm up to get the best results from their bodies. The process of digestion is another clear example of an inflammation process. Food is a foreign substance that is taken inside of us. After a meal our body temperature rises and if there is an unhealthy, exaggerated response inflammatory markers such as sedimentation rate, CRP, and white blood cell count will increase. Lymph node swelling after eating has been noted as well. In normal digestion the gut becomes flushed with blood and lymph flow increases. The intake of a meal can be seen as a splinter, a foreign body that the human organism must overcome with a small but noticeable inflammatory reaction. The foreign body is overcome and transformed completely otherwise it causes disease.

Fever and Growth

Warmth has a suppressing effect on growth. This effect becomes clear when examining the male reproductive organs. The testes are kept further from the body in a state of relative coolness. In nearly all mammals the scrotum is found outside of the abdomen and where it is not there is usually a cooler core body temperature or specialized blood circulation to keep the intra-abdominal testes cool at around 2-4 degrees cooler than core body temperature1. Heating the testes with an ultrasound machine is even being investigated as a method for temporary male sterilization.2Researchers are concerned about a possible link between disposable diapers for children and subsequent infertility and some researchers have found that baby boys in disposable diapers have warmer scrotal temperatures than those in cloth diapers, though there are other studies with conflicting findings3.

The Conch perpetually grows through its development                                             By Richard Parker [CC BY 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Examined from the perspective of animal development we can see that cold blooded animals are often able to continue growing through their entire life cycle. Catfish can grow to staggering sizes as they continue growing every year they live. We would be shocked or amused to see a finch follow that path of growth. As the outstanding Goethean scientist and Anthroposophic physician Armin Husemann has noted, when warmth makes its way into the animal organism, perpetual growth is controlled.

Humanized Medicine’s Perspective on Fever

David Martin MD offers a brilliant overview of fever from an Anthroposophic perspective. He highlights the following thirteen themes of fever in the human being and provides compelling supporting evidence from the scientific literature.4

  1. The leading motif in anthroposophic medicine is that warmth and, in disease, fever are direct manifestations of the “self” working on the body, making the body more an instrument and expression of the “ego,” the “I” (in German “das Ich”) [1922, 2527].
  2. Fever may allow faster and/or more complete resolution of infections [8, 1923, 2629].
  3. Fever may prevent recurrent infection [1922, 26].
  4. Fever may assist immune maturation in children [1922, 2527].
  5. Fever may protect against developing allergic diseases [7, 1922, 26].
  6. Fever may help resolve allergic disease [7, 1922, 26].
  7. Fever offers a unique opportunity for caregivers to provide loving care [1922, 26].
  8. Fever may facilitate individual development and creativity [19, 20, 22, 23, 28].
  9. Febrile illness may help a developing child take ownership of their body towards a better expression of their unique individuality and to overcome inherited (e.g., epigenetic) traits [1923, 26, 28].
  10. Febrile illnesses may be protective against cancer [1922, 24, 25, 30].
  11. Some febrile illnesses may contribute to curing cancer [19, 20, 25].
  12. Febrile reactions to injecting mistletoe products in cancer treatment may improve treatment outcome [1922, 24, 30].
  13. Antipyretics such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen should be used sparingly: only if other means of relieving discomfort fail or if fever needs to be suppressed for other medical reasons [8, 1922, 2527].


Martin, D. D. (2016). Fever: Views in Anthroposophic Medicine and Their Scientific Validity. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : eCAM, 2016, 3642659.

The Filderklinik near Stuttgart, Germany is one of several Anthroposophic integrative hospitals. Each disease is seen and treated as a manifestation of the individual human being. Fever is a respected process and nearly always allowed to continue without antipyretics. Often infections are carefully treated without use of antibiotics. The physicians are trained both in conventional specialties as well as Anthroposophic medicine. Music therapy, Art therapy,  Speech therapy, Eurythmy therapy, Hyperthermia therapy, Rhythmical massage and other modalities are used as key treatments. Anthroposophic medicine is prescribed as well as conventional medicine.

The bolded statements have particular relevance. Fever shows its growth halting properties in the course of infections and there is accumulating evidence that fever often offers humans a protective advantage against infection. Its role in animals is much more clearly beneficial.

Using Fever Against Cancer

Through understanding warmth’s effect on unrestrained growth we can now start to think about its use as a therapy in cancer. Though little scientific attention is focused on the possible beneficial effects of febrile illnesses in relation to cancer some compelling studies exist. A large prospective cohort study found that measles and influenza had a significant protective effect against cancers though whooping cough was found to increase cancer risk later in life5.  Another study found a consistent protective effect against cancer in people who had a greater number of febrile childhood infectious diseases including whooping cough6.

Dr. Coley, Father of Immunotherapy

Some febrile illnesses may result in spontaneously curing cancer. Many recorded cases of spontaneous remission include an intense febrile illness prior to the patient’s recovery7. The history of one of the most gifted thinkers in early cancer research is illuminating. Dr William B. Coley had the difficult job of bone surgeon in New York in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s. This was prior to chemotherapy and radiation. Surgery alone almost always meant a grim prognosis for the sarcomas he was treating. After one particularly heartbreaking case Dr. Coley decided to try to find a different approach. He gathered all the case reports on spontaneous remissions from cancer and studied them in detail. Coley tracked one patient that had a severe skin infection and shortly afterwards had a complete remission from his terminal sarcoma. Coley found in total 47 case reports supporting the role of fever and tumor remission. He began injecting mixtures of heat killed bacteria into his sarcoma patients and reported some spectacular results. He reported routinely curing sarcomas, carcinomas and melanomas sometimes already metastatic. Eventually Coley’s toxins disappeared from medical treatment. There were some concerns due to different ways of injecting them as well as multiple different versions of the toxins. Coley’s colleagues who were developing radiation therapy and moving cancer treatment in other directions questioned his results and long term follow up of his patients8. They may have been motivated to focus science on their own fields of research.

From Coley’s Toxins to Mistletoe Therapy

Mistletoe with berries                                                                                                                              Photo By H. Zell (Own work) [GFDL ( or CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons
Coley’s toxins and mistletoe similarly treat cancer with an increase in body temperature. Mistletoe is a parasitic plant that has been used in Anthroposophic medicine for 100 years (since 1917). In Germany alone over 10,000 doses are given per day for cancer treatment. Mistletoe likely acquired components similar to those found in Coley’s toxins by horizontal gene transfer from bacteria in the distant past.9 Mistletoe contains many compounds but the most important seem to be the lectins and viscotoxins. These have immunostimulating properties as well as direct tumor killing properties. There are several different producers of mistletoe products. They can all provoke fever during treatment. Iscador and Viscum Abnoba reliably are able to do so under certain treatment regimens. Improved quality of life and patient survival is frequently reported10. One study injected mistletoe directly into advanced pancreatic cancers. Most of the patients sustained a fever and their tumor growth was restrained and life expectancy seemed greatly increased11 (this was a retrospective trial focusing on safety and feasibility). A later trial confirmed the survival benefit of mistletoe in advanced pancreatic cancer12.

The Viscum Abnoba company in Germany take the utmost care when harvesting and processing their mistletoe product. The summer and winter harvested plants are stored in liquid nitrogen until the time comes to process them.

Reports of complete remission of cancer with mistletoe can also be found. Two patients with cutaneous B cell lymphoma were treated with mistletoe alone (they declined any other treatment) and had sustained complete remissions.13 In the United States the FDA has not approved mistletoe for general use. It is within regulations to import mistletoe for personal use under the care of an experienced physician14. Johns Hopkins is currently performing a study on intravenous mistletoe for treatment of cancer greatly assisted by Believe Big a nonprofit cancer foundation.

This post is meant as a thought provoking path connecting the creation of a fever process for the purpose of battling cancer. Mistletoe is the modern path forward on this path and we will explore mistletoe in depth in future posts.

Ivell R. Lifestyle impact and the biology of the human scrotum. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2007;5(1):15. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-5-15
Tsuruta JK, Dayton PA, Gallippi CM, et al. Therapeutic ultrasound as a potential male contraceptive: power, frequency and temperature required to deplete rat testes of meiotic cells and epididymides of sperm determined using a commercially available system. Reprod Biol Endocrinol. 2012;10(1):7. doi: 10.1186/1477-7827-10-7
Partsch C-J. Scrotal temperature is increased in disposable plastic lined nappies. Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2000;83(4):364-368. doi: 10.1136/adc.83.4.364
Martin DD. Fever: Views in Anthroposophic Medicine and Their Scientific Validity. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;2016:1-13. doi: 10.1155/2016/3642659
Tennant P, Parker L, Thomas J, Craft A, Pearce M. OP12 Childhood Infectious Disease and Risk of Premature Death from Cancer: A Prospective Cohort Study. J Epidemiol Community Health. 2012;66(Suppl 1):A5.2-A5. doi: 10.1136/jech-2012-201753.012
Albonico H, Bräker H, Hüsler J. Febrile infectious childhood diseases in the history of cancer patients and matched controls. Med Hypotheses. 1998;51(4):315-320. [PubMed]
Kucerova P, Cervinkova M. Spontaneous regression of tumour and the role of microbial infection – possibilities for cancer treatment. Anti-Cancer Drugs. 2016;27(4):269-277. doi: 10.1097/cad.0000000000000337
McCarthy E. The Toxins of William B. Coley and the Treatment of Bone and Soft-Tissue Sarcomas. Iowa Orthop J. 2006;26:154-158. [PMC]
Orange M, Reuter U, Hobohm U. Coleys Lessons Remembered: Augmenting Mistletoe Therapy. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2016;15(4):502-511. doi: 10.1177/1534735416649916
Kienle GS, Mussler M, Fuchs D, Kiene H. Intravenous Mistletoe Treatment in Integrative Cancer Care: A Qualitative Study Exploring the Procedures, Concepts, and Observations of Expert Doctors. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2016;2016:1-16. doi: 10.1155/2016/4628287
Schad F, Atxner J, Buchwald D, et al. Intratumoral Mistletoe (Viscum album L) Therapy in Patients With Unresectable Pancreas Carcinoma: A Retrospective Analysis. Integrative Cancer Therapies. 2013;13(4):332-340. doi: 10.1177/1534735413513637
Tröger W, Galun D, Reif M, Schumann A, Stanković N, Milićević M. Viscum album [L.] extract therapy in patients with locally advanced or metastatic pancreatic cancer: A randomised clinical trial on overall survival. European Journal of Cancer. 2013;49(18):3788-3797. doi: 10.1016/j.ejca.2013.06.043
Orange M, Lace A, Fonseca MP, Von Laue BH, Geider S, Kienle GS. Durable Regression of Primary Cutaneous B-Cell Lymphoma following Fever-inducing Mistletoe Treatment: Two Case Reports. Glob Adv Health Med. 2012;1(1):18-25. doi: 10.7453/gahmj.2012.1.1.006
US Food and Drug Administration. Import Basics: Personal Importation.