Mushroom compound 'could' suppress prostate cancer

11 September, 2014

Stopping prostate cancer in its tracks has long been the goal of scientists around the world.

Now a team of Australian researchers from Queensland University of Technology (QUT) has discovered that two naturally occurring compounds – one from mushrooms and the other from palm oil – when used together can significantly reduce the growth of prostate cancer tumours in mice.

The two compounds induced a drastic activation of the cancer fighting protein, AMP-activated protein kinase (AMPK), Dr Patrick Ling from QUT's Institute of Health and Biomedical Innovation and the Australian Prostate Cancer Research Centre-Queensland, said.

"AMPK is a key player in suppressing cancer cell growth, and the mushroom compound works together with the Vitamin E to activate AMPK to much higher levels," Dr Ling said.

Dr Ling's previous research confirmed that the compound polysaccharopeptide (PSP) found in the turkey tail mushroom, or yunzhi as it's known in China, prevented prostate cancer development in mice.

An age-old remedy

"Chinese people have put the mushroom in soups to boost health and immunity for millennia and in the past few decades have been studying its effects on cancer," he said.

"We then studied the effects on prostate cancer cells of a form of natural Vitamin E called gamma-tocotrienol or gamma-T3 which is extracted from palm oil.

"There has been interest in gamma-T3 for the past 20 years and a rapid increase in research on its anti-cancer effects for the past five years.

"This natural form of gamma T-3, which can also be extracted from rice bran oil is much more potent than the synthetic form at reducing cancer cell growth."

Dr Ling said the team's latest research also indicated that PSP actually sensitised the cancer cells to gamma-t3 cytotoxicity in mice.

He said the two compounds' synergistic effect had the potential to enhance chemotherapy and mitigate its side effects.

"The compounds have not been reported as interfering with chemotherapy."