– Beta glucans and immunotherapy

shroomiesMushrooms are great for boosting your immunity but they could also possibly boost the efficacy of the immunotherapy you might be taking.

“Mushrooms have polysaccharides called beta glucans. Beta-glucans are known as ‘biological response modifiers’ because of their ability to activate the immune system. Beta-glucans seem to make the immune system work better without becoming overactive. In addition to enhancing the activity of the immune system, beta-glucans also reportedly lower elevated levels of LDL cholesterol, aid in wound healing, help prevent infections, and have potential as an adjuvant in the treatment of cancer.” (see below)

Here’s the really cool part. “They can prevent oncogenesis due to the protective effect against potent genotoxic carcinogens. As immunostimulating agent… beta-glucan can inhibit tumor growth in promotion stage too. Anti-angiogenesis can be one of the pathways through which beta-glucans can reduce tumor proliferation, prevent tumor metastasis. beta-Glucan as adjuvant to cancer chemotherapy and radiotherapy demonstrated the positive role in the restoration of hematopiesis following by bone marrow injury. Immunotherapy using monoclonal antibodies is a novel strategy of cancer treatment.” (Medicina (Kaunas). 2007;43(8):597-606. Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system. Akramiene D1, Kondrotas A, Didziapetriene J, Kevelaitis E.)

“Orally administered beta- D-glucan greatly enhanced the anti-tumor effects of monoclonal antibodies against established tumors in mice. We observed this beta-glucan effect irrespective of antigen (GD2, GD3, CD20, epidermal growth factor-receptor, HER-2), human tumor type (neuroblastoma, melanoma, lymphoma, epidermoid carcinoma and breast carcinoma) or tumor sites (s.c. versus systemic).” (Cancer Immunol Immunother. 2002 Nov;51(10):557-64. Epub 2002 Sep 20. Orally administered beta-glucans enhance anti-tumor effects of monoclonal antibodies. Cheung NK1, Modak S, Vickers A, Knuckles B.)

What does that mean? First, beta glucans are good for you in general, they boost your immune system and they kill cancer. Further, if you are using a monoclonal antibody (Herceptin, Perjeta, Kadcyla, etc. google “list of therapeutic monoclonal antibodies” to check in Wikipedia if your drug is one), then by ingesting beta glucans, you are most likely increasing the efficacy of that drug! And where do you find beta glucans besides mushrooms? Oats, barley, and brewer yeast.

Isn’t that fascinating? A great example of ways in which we can improve and augment our diet, boost our immune system, and help our body to work with our immunotherapy to fight our cancer! I heard about this first from a naturopathic oncologist whose job it is is to wed the two approaches. I then researched and found the abstracts in peer-reviewed medical journals, printed them out, and have shown them to numerous (regular) medical oncologists who say, “that’s nice” and then toss them into the garbage.

What? How can you be a medical oncologist and NOT be fascinated by something your patient can add to their diet to make the medicine you are administering more effective? If it doesn’t come from a vial from a pharmaceutical company, its doesn’t have legitimacy in western medicine, I guess. In their defense, they are waiting for clinical trials in humans. But many of us don’t have time to wait for the trial that is just a gleam in someone’s eye right now. Thing is, we have nothing to lose by adding mushrooms, oats, and barley into our diet based on the research that has been done.

I don’t think that beta glucans alone saved my life. But they were one of the many things I did and still do (I am still on Herceptin and Perjeta) and I am alive and well beyond any western doctor’s prognostication. I think they play(ed) a role and that everyone battling cancer and especially those on immunotherapy should know about them and determine if they are right for them.

I notice that when I take an occasional ‘holiday’ from my supplements, I get colds and flus and shingles, something I seem to be immune to when on them. In addition to cooking with wild and exotic mushrooms, I take 5 kinds of powdered, dried mushrooms…. Turkey tail, Chagas, Cordyceps, Lion’s Mane and Reishi. ( I actually now take Myco Formula Immune out of Jacksonville, Oregon and it contains 10 species of certified organic medicinal mushrooms MycoFormulas Immunity Mushroom Supplements). I also try to include oats and barley regularly in my diet as another source of beta glucans.

– Effects of beta-glucans on the immune system

– Beta glucans enhance monoclonal antibodies

– Mushrooms and breast cancer

– Mushroom derived beta glucans

– Dr. Weil – Mushrooms and health

– Dr. Mercola – Mushrooms boost immunity

FDA Approves Bastyr Turkey Tail Trial for Cancer Patients

– The healing power of mushrooms

Disclaimer: Nothing contained on this website should be construed as medical advice. I am not a doctor. I am a Stage IV breast cancer thriver who is currently NED/NAD and simply sharing what I did, and do, and why. Please research anything I share to determine if it is a good path for you. Bless you all on the path you choose.







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  1. CARL

    beta-glucan, as derived from cell walls such as those of spent brewer s yeast, is mentioned in articles as an agent which improves the body s immune system. by extension, this suggests including the immune system s fight against cancer. can D-F comment on beta-glucan regarding such possibilities? if yes, can you provide to me a D-F contact who i may call and with whom i can discuss this matter. tia.

  2. Doug

    Thanks for a very informative article. Do you have any opinion on whether it is better to take Beta Glucans vs whole mushroom extracts? I would think taking a Beta Glucan only supplement you can get a higher concentration of one of the most active components of mushrooms but perhaps are missing out on other compounds of the mushroom which may also be beneficial. Any thoughts?

    1. Kaiulani Facciani

      The product I take (discussed in article) is a combination of 10 different medicinal mushrooms, all shown to boost immune system and fight cancer in different ways. I think of it like cannabis, another powerful natural medicine, where the “Entourage Effect” has shown that whole plant extracts are what you want, not isolating single compounds. Whether you believe in intelligent design or evolution, the fact remains that we have co-existed for millennia with these natural substances and there is a reason the compounds exist within a single source. So, while I do not know of a study that has tested it, my intuition/world view tells me its better to have the whole natural source (mushroom) as opposed to a single compound isolated in the lab. If you haven’t seen it, you may enjoy my series on Cannabis & Cancer… the first two posts are especially fascinating, IMHO. http://whatididanddoandwhy.com/killing-cancer/cannabis-and-cancer/ Best wishes.

  3. Donna Kuhn

    i avoid some mushrooms because they’re estrogenic

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