Fighting prostate cancer with mushrooms

June 21, 2016 | by Denise Heady

The humble white button mushroom is more than just a salad and pizza topper - it is a potential cancer-fighting powerhouse.

City of Hope scientists have found enticing evidence that these common fungi have the potential to treat and lower the risk of cancer, and are determined to explore it to the fullest.

Shiuan Chen, Ph.D., professor and chair in the Department of Cancer Biology, is particularly dedicated to exploring the potential of compounds in these mushrooms to fight prostate cancer - the most common cancer found in men.

In a recent clinical trial at City of Hope, a powder made of white button mushrooms was found to reduce the levels of prostate specific antigen, or PSA, in prostate cancer patients whose PSA levels had been rising. And, even better, the powder caused no ill effects.

Here, Chen discusses the benefits of mushrooms and their potential to treat prostate cancer.

How did you become interested in studying mushrooms?

We were searching for fruits and vegetables with the ability to block the formation of female hormone (estrogen) and one strong form of male hormone (dihydrotestosterone, DHT), as they promote the growth of breast cancer and prostate cancer, respectively. Mushroom extract was found to be able to do that. A set of experiments using cell culture and experimental animals confirmed mushroom’s  cancer suppression activity.

Why did you decide to focus specifically on white button mushrooms?

From the beginning, we believed that it was important to develop cancer prevention studies using a mushroom that was relatively inexpensive and easily obtained. The extract of white button mushrooms were found to be effective. We then decided to work on this type of mushroom.

How do mushrooms help treat prostate cancer?

Chemicals in mushrooms have been found to slow down the production of estrogen as well as DHT. From the recently completed trial, intake of mushrooms was also found to reduce one type of negative regulation of our immune function. By the latter mechanism, mushroom intake is thought to improve our immune function to fight cancer.

Your research is on using button mushrooms in a diet to prevent the return of prostate cancer. What was the major finding of your research so far?

PSA increase is an important marker of prostate cancer progression, especially in patients whose prostate has been surgically removed. Our studies have found that eating mushrooms blocks PSA increase in some patients, which indicates that prostate cancer growth has slowed down or stopped.

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Learn more about City of Hope's Program in Natural Therapies, the scientists conducting the research and the gift that made it possible. If you are looking for a second opinion or consultation about your prostate cancer treatment, request an appointment online or contact us at 800-826-HOPE. Please visit Making Your First Appointment for more information.

 

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