Research Highlight

Mushroom aid for cancer care

doi:10.1038/nindia.2012.76 Published online 18 May 2012

New research has shown that polysaccharides derived from mushroom can activate immune cells and stall the growth of cancer cells. The polysaccharides, isolated from the fruit bodies of edible mushroom Termitomyces robustus, could be used in combination with chemotherapeutic agents as a therapy for cancer.

Recent research has shown that chemotherapeutic drugs alone cannot control the unruly growth of cancers cells. This led researchers to search for natural agents that could enhance the efficacy of chemotherapeutic agents by boosting the activity of immune cells.

The researchers chose an edible mushroom grown on termite soil and prepared aqueous extracts of T. robustus. They isolated beta-D-glucans, a type of polysaccharide present in T. robustus, and used sodium hydroxide solution to produce two fractions of polysaccharide: PSI (water soluble) and PSII (water insoluble).

Next, the researchers investigated the effect of PSI and PSII on cultured cells of mice spleen, thymus and macrophage. The spleen and thymus harbour various white blood cells that take part in immune defence, and macrophage engulfs and digests pathogens.

The polysaccharides were found to activate the macrophage, as seen in the increased production of nitric oxide. Higher concentrations of the polysaccharides produced greater amounts of NO. They also stimulated the cells of spleen and thymus.

Because beta-D-glucans are dietary fibres, they can be absorbed in the intestine by hazardous materials such as carcinogenic substances. "Preliminary studies showed that certain beta-D-glucans can completely inhibit a Dalton's lymphoma, making the mushroom polysaccharides potential drug candidates for future cancer therapy," says lead researcher Syed S. Islam.

The authors of this work are from: Department of Chemistry and Chemical Technology, Vidyasagar University, Midnapore, Department of Biotechnology, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Kharagpur, Kharagpur and Department of Chemistry, PG Centre, Panskura Banamali College, Midnapore (East), West Bengal, India.


  1. Bhanja, S. K. et al. Isolation and characterization of the immunostimulating β-glucans of an edible mushroom Termitomyces robustus var. Carbohydr. Res. doi:  10.1016/j.carres.2012.04.007 (2012)