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According to an article recently published in Urology, shiitake mushroom extract (SME) failed to produce significant anti-cancer responses in patients with prostate cancer.

The prostate is a male sex gland located between the bladder and the rectum. Since prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in men in the United Sates, it has been recommended that males over the age of 50 years receive an annual prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test to detect prostate cancer in its early stages. PSA is a protein produced by the prostate that can be found in circulating blood. PSA levels are often significantly elevated above normal in men who have prostate cancer. PSA levels are tested to determine how severe cancer is and they also indicate whether or not treatment is working.

Shiitake mushrooms are edible fungi native to Asia and are the second most commonly cultivated edible mushrooms in the world. They have been widely used in China since at least 100 A.D. and are taken either as whole mushroom or as a shiitake mushroom extract (SME). SME usually contains the active components of shiitake mushrooms: polysaccharide/oligosaccharide (complex sugar) compounds. Laboratory studies suggest that SME may produce antitumor effects, but clinical research is necessary to determine whether these effects are experienced by cancer patients.

Researchers at the University of California at Davis enrolled 62 men with prostate cancer confirmed by biopsy and who had at least two consecutive tests with elevated PSA levels. The patients received SME via a capsule three times a day for four to six months. During this time, the cancer patients did not receive any other cancer treatments. This study did not include a group of patients receiving a placebo (inert substance).

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Eight patients withdrew during the course of the study, seven because their cancer had progressed. At the completion of the study, no patients had experienced a complete remission (undetectable PSA levels) or a partial response (defined as a drop of 50% or more in PSA levels) in their prostate cancer. Cancer progressed for 23 patients, while 4 patients had unchanging PSA levels, which represents stabilized cancer. No side effects were observed during the study.

The researchers concluded that SME alone is ineffective as a treatment for prostate cancer and encourage prostate cancer patients to discuss whether or not to take SME with their physicians prior to doing so.

Reference: deVere White RW, Hackman RM, Soares SE, et al. Effects of a mushroom mycelium extract on the treatment of prostate cancer.

Urology. 2002;60:640-4.

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