A Chinese mushroom is offering some hope to pet owners in treating hemangiosarcoma, an aggressive form of cancer that shortens life to a matter of days. Hemangiosarcoma is a cancer that originates in the blood vessels and affects the spleen. It comes on quickly and kills just as fast. The compound has been found to extend the lifespans of cancer-stricken dogs. Researchers believe the mushroom could eventually help humans in the fight against cancer as well.
The mushroom is called coriolus versicolor, or more simply, the Yunzhi mushroom and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years,. Polysaccharopeptide, or PSP, is the active ingredient, the compound that researchers say has immune-boosting and tumor-busting properties.
The Coriolus mushroom is currently being studied in a $5.4 million collaboration between Bastyr, the University of Washington and others, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The mushroom grows widely in forests around the world, but its health potential has never been fully measured in scientific trials. Learn more...
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved a clinical trial for a turkey tail extract, allowing patients with advanced prostate cancer to take it in combination with conventional chemotherapy. Another trial pending FDA approval will test the effects of taking the extract along with a vaccine treatment in women with breast cancer. These will help researchers gather safety data and continue their development of potentially transformative cancer therapy.
At Penn Vet, part of the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, researchers are testing the PSP on dogs diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. These dogs, once diagnosed, have a life expectancy of about 86 days. But initial results with the PSP show them living beyond a year after diagnosis.
“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.”
“It’s a very devastating disease,” said Penn Vet researcher Dottie Brown. “The presentation is very acute. The dog looks completely normal, running around the yard and then literally collapses in a short period of time and gets into an emergency room situation. Usually it is growing in the abdomen and also the spleen and no one sees it, then it breaks open and bleeds.”
Early results from the dog clinical trials are promising, with those receiving the highest dose of PSP doubling their life expectancy. They have exhibited no additional side effects from the treatment and their overall health seems improved.
“We believe if we can definitely show this can decrease the spread of tumors, it will be applicable in other kinds of tumors, not just hemangiosarcomas in dogs, cats and people,” said Dr. Brown.
Pets are like honorary family members for many people. They become the children we never had or the sibling our child always wanted. So when illness threatens to take them away, pet owners often wish there was more they could do. Now, another treatment option exists.
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