Mushroom Polysaccharides (PSK, betaglucan) and Cancer Treatment

There is an ever increasing amount of evidence supporting natural medicines have an ability to prevent cancer and may even be able to play a role in treating it. Supplementary polysaccharides such as MGN-3 (biobran) or betaglucans from Shitake mushrooms are gaining wider exposure with further scientific research into their immune system modulating ability.

Five major double blind placebo controlled trials of polysaccharide-K (PSK) and the effects on cancer were conducted and suggested that PSK has a potent antitumor effect. The exact mechanisms are not clearly understood, but the results are clearly promising.

Research shows that natural compounds such as these mushroom polysaccharides can reverse drug resistance by inhibition of P-glucoprotein, inhibition of glutathione drug detox system and inhibition of heat shock proteins. What does this mean? Mushroom polysaccharides seem to help the chemotherapy and immune system to more effectively work on the cancer cells.

Some research in 2008 even suggests that natural compounds can produce a cytotoxic effect in cancer cells. When they are used in combination with chemotherapy drugs the effects are often additive or synergistic.

Chemotherapy Medicines

According to a research paper published in 2012, many chemotherapy agents have an immune suppressive effect which can result in an increased risk of infection. This also impacts the body’s ability to mark cancer cells for destruction. The role in polysaccharides like MGN-3 or Betaglucans is increasingly attracting further support in the integrative medicine treatment for cancer because of their ability to support immune function.

Beta-glucan actions on Immune System

The mechanism of action of Beta-glucans are poorly understood. Current understanding of the actions are believed to be that Beta-glucans seem to stimulate/irritate your white blood cells called Macrophages into action. Increased macrophage activity triggers a flow-on cascade of immune events, which boost immune response in the human body.

Many research papers support the immune modulating effects of Beta-glucans. Chan et al (2009), Akramiene et al (2007), Pires et al (2013), da Silva et al (2013) and Chen et al (2012) are just a handful of articles with supporting evidence of mushroom polysaccharide use in cancer treatment.

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