Integrative oncology is really a concept that’s becoming more and more commonly understood and hopefully something that we can see more often.
Mushrooms are a very important synergist with conventional treatment. Some of the data on mushrooms is actually reported about as data on something called PSK which stands for Polysaccharide Krestin. This is a compound that is extracted from a mushroom called turkey tail mushroom. Also, its Latin name is Coriolus Versicolor. And just to confuse matters, it’s also been called Trametes Versicolor. All the same thing. Turkey Tail mushroom.
So they extract out this PSK, this polysaccharide. These companies kind of just enzymatically react it a little bit. So it’s basically synonymous with what you get in the mushroom. And it’s called PSK. So a lot of the data on mushrooms is also data on PSK. That being said, this particular review took 31 trials and, again, we’re close to 10,000 patients when we combine all these trials together. And I boxed in breast. So if you look at that, the 10 year survival for breast cancer in people who just had chemotherapy, in these trials, was about 65%. In people who had that chemotherapy plus they added the use of Turkey Tail mushroom and/or PSK abstract, their survival went up to 81%. So that’s a significant improvement in survival with the addition of mushroom to the chemotherapy.
This is what Turkey Tail mushroom looks like. You can see why it’s called Turkey Tail.
Below is a relatively recent meta analysis that looked at 13 studies and they found that if you took all the cancers combined, there was a reduction in five year death rate from cancer by 9%. Now, that might not sound like a lot, but this is an actually, statistically, this is an absolute reduction, which is a much stronger effect than a relative risk reduction. This study is so compelling that in countries like Japan, the use of medicinal mushroom is part of the standard of care. So people who get chemotherapy and radiation in places like Japan, will also get recommendations for medicinal mushrooms because it has such a significant impact on improving survival. So this is something that I hope will become standard of care in the United States too.
So if we go back to the trial data and you look at all these cancers, the cancers that have the best benefit from the use of mushrooms include breast cancer. So breast cancer is one that I certainly recommend concurrent, at least, consideration for concurrent use of medicinal mushrooms.
The graph below is a survival graph. So if you follow the line on the bottom, you can see the numbers 0 – 5. So that represents time in years. So if you go to the number 5, and then you just kind of make an imaginary line going up, your imaginary line will intersect those two end points there. The dotted line represents the percent of people – and you can see that by going across to the vertical axis and it’s written there for you too.
So at five years, 72% of people who did not take mushrooms were alive without cancer. And on the other hand, if you look up a little further to the solid line, you see that 79% in five years were alive who had also taken the mushrooms. So there’s an improvement in the percentage of people alive at, really, any time point if you follow those lines when you add mushrooms in to conventional therapy. So that’s just how that’s represented in a graphic way.
The slide below relates to two trials on estrogen receptor negative cancer. So this is breast cancer that does not express that estrogen receptor. Generally speaking, estrogen receptor negative cancers are harder to treat and they’re a little bit more aggressive. And so these become more significant, these results.
So in the first trial, what they did is that they gave these women mushrooms in addition to conventional chemotherapy. And they found that by giving mushrooms in addition to chemotherapy there was a significant improvement in overall survival.
In the second trial, they gave women either chemotherapy or a PSK extract and there was comparable survival. So this is particularly of interest and I’m not sure I would go as far as to recommend mushroom substitute for chemo. This was not a chemo that is commonly used for breast cancer, but it does indicate the power of mushrooms to extend overall survival when combined with or used concurrently with and beyond chemotherapy.
By: Lise Alschuler, ND FABNO