Medicinal mushrooms as an attractive new source of natural compounds for future cancer therapy!

Medicinal mushrooms have been used in different parts of the world, especially in Asia, to treat various diseases. Medicinal mushrooms have also grown in popularity over the years as an alternative or adjunctive therapy to cancer patients. In fact, medicinal mushrooms have been approved for more than 3 years as an adjunct to standard chemotherapy in cancer patients in China and Japan. 

Turkey Tail, Ganoderma Lucidum, Maitake Mushrooms Treat Cancer

In Asia, more than 100 species of mushrooms are used to treat various diseases, including cancer. The biologically active compounds present in each medicinal mushroom are different and therefore have different biological activities. Some common examples of mushrooms that are popular for their association with cancer treatments are Lion Mane , Agaricus, Cordyceps, Grifola/Maitake, Reishi/Ganoderma and Turkey Tail.

But do we have research that suggests that adding these mushrooms to a cancer patient's diet might improve cancer outcomes or help reduce cancer risk? Could we use these mushrooms as a first-line treatment for cancer?

Let's find out some from some clinical and observational studies related to some of these mushrooms, especially turkey tail/yunzhi/yunzhi mushroom, lingzhi/lingzhi mushroom and maitake/grey tree mushroom.


Eating mushrooms and prostate cancer 


Japanese Population Studies

In a recent study published in 2020, researchers from Tohoku University's School of Public Health and Tohoku University's Graduate School of Agricultural Sciences, as well as Penn State University and the Beckman Institute in City of Hope, USA, assessed the relationship between mushroom consumption . and incidental prostate cancer. They used dietary data from the 1990 Miyagi cohort study and the 1994 Osaki cohort study involving 36,499 men aged 40-79. During a follow-up period of 13.2 years, a total of 1204 cases of prostate cancer were reported. ( Shu Zhang et al., Int J Cancer., 2020 )

The study found that participants who ate mushrooms regularly had a lower risk of prostate cancer consumed compared to participants who ate less than one serving of mushrooms per week. Those who 8-1 servings per week had an approximately 2% lower risk, and those who ≥17 servings per week had an approximately 3% lower risk. The study also highlighted that the association was more pronounced among middle-aged and older Japanese men. 

Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that regular intake of mushrooms may help reduce the risk of prostate cancer.


Effects of white mushroom (WBM) powder intake on serum prostate-specific antigen levels

Researchers at City of Hope National Medical Center and the Beckman Institute in City of Hope, California conducted a study to evaluate the effect of white mushroom powder on serum prostate-specific antigen levels. A total of 36 patients with persistently elevated PSA levels were included in the study. (Przemyslaw Twardowski et al. Cancer. May 2015)

The study found that 36 of the 13 patients had lower PSA levels after 3 months of consuming white mushroom powder. With white button mushroom powder, the overall PSA response rate was 11%, with no dose-limiting toxicity. In two patients receiving white mushroom powder at 8 g/day and 14 g/day, a complete response associated with PSA was observed, with PSA falling to undetectable levels at 49 and 30 months, and the other two receiving Partial responses were observed in patients taking 8 g and 12 g /day. 


Turkey Tail / Yunzhi / Yunzhi Mushroom


Turkey tail / Yunzhi mushrooms grow on dead wood. Their medicinal extracts are extracted from the mycelium and fruiting bodies of mushrooms and are used in cancer patients to boost their immune systems. The main components are β-sitosterol, ergosterol, and polysaccharide peptides, including polysaccharide krestin (PSK) and polysaccharide peptide (PSP) obtained from the mycelium of fungal CM-101 and COV-1 strains, respectively.


Effects of consumption of turkey tail/yunzhi/yunzhi mushroom on cancer 


Study in Hong Kong 

Researchers from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and the Prince of Wales Hospital in Hong Kong conducted a meta-analysis from 13 computerized clinical trials to analyze the effect of turkey tail/yunzhi/yunzhi mushroom consumption on survival in cancer patients. Database and manual searches . (Wong LY Eliza et al, Recent Pat Inflamm Allergy Drug Discov., 2012)

The study found that patients using turkey tail mushrooms and conventional cancer treatment had significantly improved survival rates and an absolute 5% reduction in 9-year mortality compared with patients who received conventional cancer treatment alone. These findings were evident in patients with breast, stomach, or colorectal cancer who received chemotherapy, but not in patients with esophageal and nasopharyngeal cancers. 

However, this study was unable to identify which specific anticancer treatment would maximize the benefits of turkey tail/yunzhi/yunzhi mushroom.



Effects of eating turkey tail mushrooms on breast cancer patients

In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota, they conducted a small Phase 11 clinical study in a breast cancer patient who had completed radiation therapy to determine the maximum benefit of a divided daily preparation of turkey tail mushroom extract. The tolerated dose was 6 weeks. Nine of six breast cancer patients who received 9, 11, or 3 grams of turkey tail mushroom extract preparations completed the study. (Carolyn J Torkelson et al. ISRN Oncol., 2012)

The study found that up to 9 grams per day of turkey tail mushroom extract preparations were safe and tolerable in these breast cancer patients following conventional cancer treatment. They also found that the mushroom extract preparation improved the immune status of immunocompromised breast cancer patients following standard primary tumor therapy. However, more well-designed large-scale clinical studies are needed to confirm these findings.



Effects of turkey tail mushroom constituents/polysaccharide krestin (PSK) on colorectal cancer patients

In a study conducted at Fukseikai Hospital in Japan, researchers compared the 10-year overall survival of colorectal cancer patients undergoing surgery who received oral fluoropyrimidine alone versus those who received oral fluoropyrimidine in combination with polysaccharide kureha/polysaccharide krestin (PSK), key active ingredient in turkey tail mushroom, 24 months. They found that the 10-year survival rate for patients who received the PSK combination was 31.3 percent higher than for those who received the therapy alone. In colorectal cases with high lymphatic and venous invasion (cancer penetrating outside the bowel wall), the overall survival was improved by 54.7%, even more significantly. (Toshimi Sakai et al. Cancer Biother Radiopharm. 2008)

Another study by researchers at Gunma University in Japan also found that the protein-binding polysaccharide K, together with the cancer treatment drug tegafur, had similar benefits in patients with stage II or III colorectal cancer. (Susumu Ohwada et al, Oncol Rep, 2006 )


The effect of polysaccharide krestin (PSK), a component of turkey tail mushroom, on gastric cancer patients

A meta-analysis by researchers at the University's Graduate School of Medicine evaluated the effect of gastric immunochemotherapy on survival in 8,009 gastric cancer patients undergoing surgery, drawn from eight randomized controlled trials. In this study, they compared the results of chemotherapy and immunotherapy using turkey tail mushroom component - polysaccharide krestin (PSK) as an immune booster. (Koji Oba et al. Cancer Immunol Immunother., 2007)

The results of the meta-analysis suggest that adjuvant immunochemotherapy, together with the polysaccharide krestin (PSK), the key active component of turkeytail mushroom, may improve survival in gastric cancer patients undergoing surgery.


Effects of turkey tail mushroom polysaccharide krestin (PSK) on lung cancer patients

Researchers from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine and the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute in Canada conducted a systematic review of the polysaccharide kretin (PSK), the key active ingredient in turkey tail mushrooms, in the treatment of lung cancer. 17 reports from 31 studies ( 28 RCTs and 6 non-randomised controlled trials and 5 preclinical studies) were used for the analysis, and these reports were analysed through PubMed, EMBASE, CINAHL, The Cochrane Library, AltHealth Watch and Science and Technology Library through 2014-2015. (Heidi Fritz et al. Integr Cancer Ther. 2009)

The study found improvements in median survival and 1-, 2-, and 5-year survival in nonrandomized controlled trials using PSK. The study also found benefits in immune parameters and hematology/blood function, performance status and weight, tumor-related symptoms such as fatigue and anorexia, and survival in randomized controlled trials. 

The researchers concluded that polysaccharide krestin (PSK), the key active component of turkey tail mushrooms, improves host immune function (enhancing natural killer (NK) cell activity), reduces tumor-related symptoms, and prolongs survival in lung cancer patients. However, Larger, well-defined clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings.


Lingzhi / Lingzhi Mushroom


Ganoderma/Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms grow on trees and are used by cancer patients, especially in China and Japan, to boost the immune system. Some of the main active ingredients of Ganoderma lucidum are ergosterol peroxide, ganoderma acid, GPL, linoleic acid, oleic acid and palmitic acid


Effects of consuming Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms on cancer


A meta-analysis by researchers at the University of Sydney

Researchers at the University of Sydney, Australia conducted a systematic review to assess the clinical effects of Ganoderma/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom consumption on long-term survival, tumor response, host immune function, and quality of life in cancer patients, as well as associated adverse events. with its use. For analysis, 5 randomised controlled trials were obtained through literature searches in the Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), MEDLINE, EMBASE, NIH, AMED, CBM, CNKI, CMCC and VIP Information/Chinese Journal of Science in 2011 databases in 2011 The data. . (Xingzhong Jin et al, Cochrane Database Syst Rev., XNUMX)

The analysis found that patients who received Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract at the same time as chemotherapy/radiotherapy were more likely to have a positive response than chemotherapy/radiotherapy alone. However, treatment with Ganoderma/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract alone did not have the same benefits seen in combination therapy. Four of the studies also found a relative improvement in the quality of life of patients treated with Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract compared to patients treated with cancer alone. 

The researchers concluded that Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract cannot be used as a first-line treatment for cancer. However, due to the potential of Ganoderma/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract to enhance tumor response and stimulate immunity, it can be used as adjuvant therapy along with conventional therapy.



Effects of Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract on colorectal adenoma patients

A clinical trial was conducted in 96 patients with colorectal adenomas (colorectal precancerous lesions/colorectal cancer precursors) at Hiroshima University Hospital, Japan, to evaluate the effect of supplementation with 1.5 g/day of Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract for 12 months on the risk of developing colon cancer. Rectal cancer. 102 colorectal adenoma patients were not supplemented with Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract and were considered controls for the study.

The study found that while the number and size of adenomas increased in the control group, a decrease in the number and size of adenomas was found in patients with colorectal adenomas who received Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract. 

Based on the findings, the researchers concluded that Ganoderma lucidum/Ganoderma lucidum mushroom extract may inhibit the development of colorectal adenomas.



Effects of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on lung cancer patients

Massey University researchers conducted a clinical study in 36 patients with advanced lung cancer to assess the effects of supplementation with 5.4 g/day Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide for 12 weeks. The results of the study found that only a part of these cancer patients responded to Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide combined with chemotherapy/radiotherapy and showed some improvement in host immune function. 

The researchers also suggest that a large number of definitive studies are needed to explore the efficacy and safety of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides alone or in combination with chemotherapy/radiotherapy in lung cancer patients. (Yihuai Gao et al, J Med Food., Summer 2005)



Effects of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides on advanced cancer patients

A previous study by the same researchers at Massey University in New Zealand assessed the effect of 1800 mg of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharide three times a day for 12 weeks on immune function in 34 patients with advanced cancer. (Yihuai Gao et al, Immunol Invest., 2003)

Studies have found that Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides enhance immune responses in patients with advanced cancer, such as cytokine levels (elevated serum IL-2, IL-6 and IFN-γ levels; IL-1 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF-α) levels) , lymphocytes (cancer-fighting immune cells) counts and natural killer cell activity increased. However, they recommend that more research be done to evaluate the safety and toxicity of Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides before recommending Ganoderma lucidum polysaccharides for cancer patients. 


Maitake/Grifola Mushrooms


Maitake/Grifola frondosa mushrooms grow in clusters on the bases of trees, especially oaks. Some of the key active compounds in maitake mushrooms are polysaccharides, ergosterol, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus, and vitamins B1 and B2. Maitake mushrooms are also used to fight tumors and lower blood sugar and lipid levels. Similar to turkey tail mushrooms, maitake mushrooms also have immune system stimulating properties.


Effects of Maitake Extract on Cancer


Effects of maitake mushroom extract on cancer patients with myelodysplastic syndrome

A phase II clinical study by researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center Integrative Medicine Service evaluated the effect of maitake mushroom extract (3 mg/kg) supplementation for 12 weeks on 18 myelodysplastic syndromes (MDS) Effects of innate immune function) Patience. The study found that maitake mushroom extract was well tolerated in these cancer patients and also increased basal neutrophil and monocyte function in vitro, suggesting that maitake mushroom extract has immunomodulatory potential in MDS. (Kathleen M Wesa et al. Cancer Immunol Immunother., 2015)


The effect of maitake mushroom polysaccharide on breast cancer patients

In a phase I/II clinical trial conducted by integrative researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, they evaluated the immunology of maitake mushroom polysaccharide in 34 postmenopausal women with breast cancer who were not affected by initial treatment Effects. Patients received oral maitake mushroom extract at 0.1, 0.5, 1.5, 3, or 5 mg/kg twice daily for 3 weeks. (Gary Deng et al., J Cancer Res Clin Oncol., 2009)

Studies have found that oral administration of maitake polysaccharide extract is associated with immune stimulation and inhibition in peripheral blood. While increasing the dose of maitake mushroom extract increased some immune parameters, it suppressed others. Therefore, the researchers stress that cancer patients should be warned that maitake mushroom extract has complex effects that may suppress and enhance immune function at different concentrations.


Conclusion – Can Reishi, Turkey Tail and Maitake Mushrooms be Used as First-Line Cancer Treatment?

Mushrooms such as turkey tail, reishi mushroom, and maitake mushrooms are believed to have medicinal properties. Different studies suggest that mushrooms like Turkeytail Mushrooms may have the potential to improve the immune system and/or survival of people with cancers such as breast, colorectal, stomach, and lung cancers, and reduce the risk of cancers such as prostate and ganoderma /Ganoderma lucidum mushrooms may have the potential to improve host immune function and reduce the risk of cancers such as colorectal cancer in certain cancer patients. However, turkey tail, reishi mushroom, and maitake mushroom extracts cannot be used as first-line cancer treatments, but only as adjuncts to chemotherapy and radiotherapy after evaluating their interaction with treatment.Additionally, while increasing the dose of maitake mushroom extract increased some immune parameters in cancer patients, it also suppressed immune parameters in others. Larger, more well-designed clinical trials are needed to evaluate the efficacy and safety/toxicity of all these medicinal mushrooms when used in conjunction with specific chemotherapy and other cancer treatments.

What foods you eat and which supplements you take are your decisions. Your decision should include consideration of cancer genetic mutations, cancer, ongoing treatments and supplements, any allergies, lifestyle information, weight, height and habits.