For the longest time, natural remedies have been the backbone of any medical treatment. Today, science is looking to improve modern medicine and find alternative solutions by drawing inspiration from what nature has to offer.
Mushrooms have been used for their pharmaceutical properties throughout history, especially in Eastern cultures. More recently, researchers have tried to test and quantify the results of their therapeutic effects, and more notably, the claim that they might have anticarcinogenic properties. Their findings were quite surprising.
A team comprised of doctors from several institutions, including the Far Eastern Federal University and the University of Lausanne, has been focusing on four types of fungi: Trametes versicolor, Fomitopsis pinicola, Hericium erinaceus and Inonotus obliquus. All from the Basidiomycota division and rich in bioactive compounds (polyphenols, cerebrosides, polysaccharides, terpenoids, glucans etc.), these were the most promising candidates that already showed some evidence of having antitumor responses.
While some of them had already been involved in previous trials, their effectiveness was not well represented as they had seen wide application for all types of cancer. The study highlights that the approach should be more targeted as each mushroom displayed different levels of efficiency on different cancers. Fomitopsis pinicola, for example, reacted better with colon and rectal cancers; Hericium erinaceus had better responses with gastric, liver, colon and leukemia; Inonotus obliquus worked best on liver and skin cancers; while Trametes versicolor was more suited to dealing with pancreatic, prostate and breast tumors.
Furthermore, there is hope that they might be included in the overall treatment, thanks to their ability to boost chemotherapy.
The study concludes that “there are numerous clinical trials confirming the applicability of these mushrooms and their extracts as components of modern anticancer chemotherapy”, but “the complex modes of action and molecular targets as well as exact structures of the active molecules from these mushrooms still have to be studied in more detail”.