For centuries, food lovers have spared no expense, including using specially trained pigs, to locate rare and exotic mushrooms to include in their gourmet dishes. Today, City of Hope researchers are engaged in a new hunt, hoping to identify mushrooms’ cancer-fighting properties and put them to practical use.
No fewer than three teams of City of Hope scientists are engaged in this research. One, led by Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., director of the department of surgical research, is looking into a natural substance in the human body called “aromatase.” Blocking aromatase helps physicians control estrogen levels in postmenopausal women, which in turn can slow or prevent the growth of breast cancer tumors. Some mushrooms contain a substance that blocks aromatase.
“Eating mushrooms would be an easy intervention,” Dr. Chen says. “It could provide a cost-effective whole-food option for cancer risk reduction.”
Meanwhile, a second team, led by Przemyslaw W. Twardowski, M.D., is investigating another substance in mushrooms that can lower levels of 5-alpha reductase, an enzyme linked to male hormones involved in prostate cancer.
Yet a third team, working with Marianna Koczywas, M.D., is investigating beta-glucans. “Recent research has shown that beta-glucans found in certain medicinal mushrooms could exert immune-enhancing activity,” Dr. Koczywas explains. This could help fight cancer tumors by strengthening our natural immune systems.
It’s still too soon to say that eating more mushrooms will help you avoid cancer. But all these lines of research have shown promise in early tests. It’s the kind of unexpected, but very encouraging, science made possible by your generous support of City of Hope.