A naturally occurring compound found in mushrooms that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries has proven to have potent anti-cancer properties in a new scientific study involving dogs that researchers said could have significant implications for human cancer patients.
Scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine found dogs with a form of canine cancer treated with a compound derived from the Yunzhi mushroom had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease.
The promising findings, reported in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, offer hope that the compound may one day offer cancer patients – human and canine alike – a viable alternative or complementary treatment to traditional chemotherapies.
The study – carried out by Dorothy Cimino Brown, a veterinary specialist, and radiologist Jennifer Reetz – examined the effects of a compound in the Yunzhi mushroom compound known as PSP (polysaccharopeptide) that is believed to have immune-boosting properties and may even have tumor-fighting effects.
"There have been a series of studies looking at groups of people with cancer," Cimino Brown said. "The issue with those studies is that they weren't necessarily measuring what most people would think is the most clinically important result, which is, do people taking PSP live longer?"
To answer that question, the researchers tracked the effects of PSP in dogs with an aggressive, invasive cancer that arises from the blood cells and typically affects the spleen. Fifteen dogs were divided into three groups of five; each group received a different dose of PSP delivered in pill form.
The results showed the PSP extended the lives of all the dogs in the study beyond what is typical for the type of cancer they had. Those getting the highest doses lived the longest – with surviving more than a year (four times the usual life expectancy).
"We were shocked," Cimino Brown said. "Prior to this, the longest reported median survival time of dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen that underwent no further treatment was 86 days. We had dogs that lived beyond a year with nothing other than this mushroom as treatment."