Maitake may be new cancer therapy

In the “war against cancer,” a few natural remedies have shown great promise in recent trials. One of these is maitake mushroom, which contains potent sugar molecules called polysaccharides that increase the activity of the immune system’s white blood cells, T-cells and lymphoid stem cells.

Researchers in Japan noted in a recent study that maitake was beneficial in the treatment of cancer. A special extract of maitake called MD-fraction was given to patients, aged 22 to 57 years, in the mid to late stages of cancer. The scientists report that cancer regression or significant symptom improvement was observed in 68.8% of breast cancer patients and 58.3% of liver cancer patients.

In a separate study at New York Medical College, a polysaccharide from maitake called beta-glucan was reported to have “great potential as an alternative therapeutic modality for prostate cancer.” In this study, cancerous human prostate cells were treated with various concentrations of the beta-glucan from maitake and observed for 24 hours. The researchers reported a 95% cancer cell death rate was achieved with high concentrations of the preparation, and a 90% cancer cell death rate even at low concentrations, when combined with vitamin C. The researchers believe the beta-glucan from maitake has cancer cell-killing (cytotoxic) effects through damage to cancer cell membranes.

Sources: Alt Med Rev 2002 Jun;7(3):236-9; Mol Urol 2000;4(1):7-13