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Danish Mushroom May Help in Fight Against Cancer


A Chinese-Danish physician and expert in Chinese folk medicine has discovered a Danish mushroom that may be helpful in the fight against cancer. Dr. Ming Chen, a senior physician at Sonderborg Hospital, identified a poisonous Danish mushroom that is more toxic toward cancer cells than toward healthy cells.

Mushrooms have a long medicinal tradition

When you hear the term “medicinal mushroom,” often the image is of Asian mushrooms, such as reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), shiitake (Lentinula edodes), and maitake (Grifola frondosa), which have been studied extensively for their anticancer properties.

These and other mushrooms contain various phytochemicals and polysaccharides shown to act against cancer cells, and some of these substances have been registered as drugs in Japan to complement cancer treatments. Medicinal mushrooms have also revealed potential antibacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and cardiovascular activities.

Now a Danish mushroom may join the ranks of those Asian members with beneficial compounds worth developing for managing cancer. After an extensive search, Dr. Chen discovered the mushroom and had its active ingredients isolated in a laboratory.

According to Soren Brogger Christensen, professor of natural products research at the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, the discovery represents “a completely new class of natural compounds, which makes the research results unique.”

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Unfortunately, finding a mushroom with promising anticancer qualities does not easily translate into a product readily available for market. Christensen explained that “the natural compounds are not useful in themselves because their complex structure means that they cannot be synthesized in a commercially viable manner.”

Part of that complex structure involves long chains of carbohydrates (polysaccharides), which have been shown to have a positive impact on the immune system and may boost its ability to resist disease, including cancer.

Mushrooms have been valued for their medicinal value for millennia, especially in China and Japan, and were honored in ancient Egypt by royalty. Evidence of mushrooms being used for their healing qualities has also been found in sixteenth century Russia.

The road from initial discovery of a mushroom’s potential medicinal value to finished product is long, as scientists must produce new compounds (analogues) that possess the beneficial properties found in the original mushroom. “We use nature as an inspiration for synthetic chemistry,” noted Christensen. The goal for the new Danish mushroom is to synthesize and refine its positive compounds so they may be useful in the fight against cancer.

University of Copenhagen

Picture credit: Wikimedia Commons