Bastyr University Begins New NIH Research on Mushrooms to Treat Cancer

Bastyr partners on 3-year grant studying turkey tail mushroom and immune response in treating breast and prostate cancers

KENMORE, Wash., Dec 16, 2004 -- While many types of mushrooms are appreciated throughout the world for their culinary delights, certain mushrooms may also be beneficial in anti-cancer immune therapy. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM), part of the NIH, has awarded Bastyr University, in partnership with the University of Minnesota, a three-year grant to research how turkey tail mushroom may strengthen immune response to breast and prostate cancers. Bastyr's portion of the three-year award totals $792,000.

This multi-project, two-site research grant will conduct exploratory studies on the immune effects of the Trametes versicolor mushroom species, commonly known as "turkey tail," in both breast and prostate cancers. Selected due to its long history of medicinal use in China and Japan, this mushroom is not available in local grocery stores. Turkey tail grows in many parts of Asia as well as old growth forests of the Pacific Northwest. Various products containing turkey tail mushroom are often prescribed by naturopathic physicians and acupuncture/Oriental medicine providers as a component of collaborative anticancer therapies.

Laboratory and animal studies will explore mechanisms by which turkey tail mushroom extracts interact with different immune response pathways involved in host defense against tumor cells. The study will also examine the safety of using turkey tail in women with breast cancer after standard cancer treatments. Data from this safety study will be used to design future clinical trials to test whether this mushroom can improve immune function in breast cancer patients after completing conventional treatment.

Cynthia Wenner, Ph.D., serves as Principle Investigator of the Bastyr sub-contract. In addition to Dr. Wenner, Bastyr's Leanna J. Standish, ND, Ph.D., LAc, will also be a significant contributor, adding her extensive research and clinical background in breast cancer. Dr. Wenner states, "We're excited the NIH has provided us with this opportunity. Medicinal mushroom therapy is not accepted as part of traditional cancer treatment in the United States since no studies here have been conducted to assess safety and efficacy in people with specific cancers."

Bastyr University, in Kenmore, Washington, is an accredited institution, internationally recognized as a pioneer in the study of natural healing. It is the leading university for natural health sciences in the United States, encompassing a multidisciplinary curriculum and world-renowned research. Founded in 1978 by practicing naturopathic physicians, Bastyr University integrates the pursuit of scientific knowledge with the wisdom of ancient healing methods and traditional cultures from around the world. Its mission is to educate future leaders in the natural health sciences that integrate mind, body, spirit, and nature.

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