Readers may have seen the front page news in the UKs Daily Express (November 2009). A page and a half was devoted to US research that showed medicinal mushrooms (in this case shitake, Japanese mushrooms) not only boosted the immune systems of people trying to fight cancer, but actually helped increase survival times for 70 per cent of cancer patients when used as a complementary therapy.
We are not surprised. This is not the first time medicinal mushrooms have appeared to help fight cancer.
Medicinal mushrooms have a number of actions and are covered more fully if you follow this link (click here).
Here in this article we focus on glycoproteins:
Glycoproteins are sugars, and based on polysaccharide chains of glucose. But glucose is the favourite food of a cancer cell, I hear you scream. Well, polysaccharides can neither be broken nor built in the human body. You have to ingest them in their unique configurations, and then off they go to do their work.
And when you look below at the list of top foods containing them, you will realise why junk food really is junk food.
Research on glycoproteins
Four Nobel Prizes for Medicine in recent years (1994, 1999, 2000 and 2001) have been won with research on how cells communicate, and its importance to our health & wellbeing.
Whilst one of them was specifically concerned with the brain and how nerve cells communicate through chemicals with each other (Arvid Carlsson et al 2000), the other three were concerned with communications to cells around the body and all had implications for cancer prevention and treatment.
In 1994 Gilman and Rodbell won for their discovery of "G - proteins and their role in signal transduction in cells". Basically they investigated how Iocalised cells handle signal substances from glands, nerves and other tissues to make changes.
In 1999 Gunter Blobel and his team looked at how proteins have specific protein signals built into them so that they reach the correct destinations.
And by 2001 Hartwell, Hunt and Nurse had won for showing an understanding of the cellular messages involved in the cell cycle -its growth and division into two identical daughter cells - and how mistakes might result in a cancer development.
These protein messages often involve carbohydrate molecules, or sugars, and so a generic term glycoproteins is the word coined for this hot topic.
A Simple Explanation
Several aspects of glycoproteins are important.
Blobel sought to understand a genetic mystery. When your DNA string is read and the code says you should have blue eyes or blond hair, how does the message get to the right place?
As a foetus in the womb, each of us started out with a fused cell from our parents that multiplied at an incredibly rapid rate. But around day 42-46 something (largely thought to be a message from the pancreas) tells these cells, called stem cells, to turn into eye cells or hair cells, and to stop dividing so rapidly and instead to adopt a normal cell cycle.
Cancer cells resemble stem cells and do not seem to have received the signal to differentiate
The interest for cancer scientists is that cancer cells resemble stem cells and do not seem to have received the signal to differentiate. Blobel found that the messages sent out contained little "postcodes" directing the message to the intended cells. Furthermore he discovered that these signals contain the ability to go through the cell membrane and so influence the mechanism of the cell inside
Cell Membranes - Barriers To Health
Cell membranes, like all tissue, are largely made up of fats or lipids, protein and carbohydrate. If you think of each molecule as a pin, with a pinhead, alternately pointing in opposite directions but in a neat line, you will have a picture of a healthy membrane. Messages can thus slip in between the pins. It is the role of glycoproteins to encourage this "neatness" and thus allow the messages through.
The problem comes when the pins are not in this neat format and are fused or at various angles, not allowing anything through. Worse sometimes modest amounts of carbohydrate are bonded to the membranes. Where tumour cells have this carbohydrate, it is used to bind to other cells and cause them to turn rogue too, hence causing metastasis. Killer cells in your immune system look out for these carbohydrate-bonded sites.
Blobels work focused on what happens when there are errors in the signals, while Hartwell et al focused on what happens when the cell cycle goes haywire.
What This Means To You And Me
The need for healthy signalling and message flow has led to a focus on glycoproteins. Professor Gilbon-Garber has shown, for example, that the invasive process of bacteria, viruses and indeed cancer cells which involves the above "bonding" process to membranes, can be inhibited by glycoproteins in mothers milk.
Because these molecules used in her experiments are all-natural, no side effects occurred
Because these molecules (from mothers milk, saliva and semen) used in her experiments are all-natural, no side effects occurred.
This has important implications. "Drugs" could be built on natural substances, with no side effects.
So Where Can I Get Them?
A number of naturally occurring substances have already been identified as having high glycoprotein content. Not surprisingly one was medicinal mushrooms.
Reishi, maitake, cordyceps, shiitake and oyster mushrooms all have beta-glucan polysaccharide. There have been a number of well documented studies on these medicinal mushrooms, which boost the immune system, aid communication between immune cells and rogue cells, and help considerably in the anti-cancer fight. One fun story Cancer Research UK reported was that Japanese mushroom pickers have half the cancer rates of the rest of the population. (They obviously scrump!).
Other natural sources of these essential sugars are:
Aloe vera, brans - slow cooked oatmeal, whole barley, brown rice, pectins - apples and citrus fruit eaten whole, breast milk, arabinogalactins - found in wheat, leeks, carrots, radishes, pears, red wine, coconut, meat, tomatoes, curcumin and echinacea, corn, psyllium, garlic.
The interesting factor is the universality of the discovery. All cells seem to positively respond to glycoproteins, whether they are human, yeast, plants or animals.
Even tiny amounts of these sugars - or lack of them - have a profound effect.
Any supplements for glycoproteins are unlikely to be on the new EU approved lists
One integrated cancer expert we spoke to said that glycoproteins would be more important than all discoveries like vitamin C, B17 and genistein added together!
However, it is worth noting that you should ensure you incorporate the above foods into your diet. Despite all the Nobel Prizes, any supplements for glycoproteins are unlikely to be on the new EU approved lists, as the directive now stands!
To read all about the benefits of medicinal mushrooms click here.
At last - the definitive, research-based book on how to build a diet to help beat cancer. Click here to read about it.
Please be clear: At CANCERactive we do not consider the above compound to be a cure for cancer, despite what the research says or experts doing the research may claim. The above, is an article on the compound from published research and expert opinion in the public domain. At CANCERactive we do not believe that any single compound (drug, vitamin, whatever) is a cure for cancer. We believe that people can significantly increase their personal odds of survival by building an Integrated Programme of treatments. Equally, cancer prevention is best practiced through a width of measures.
CANCERactive - leading the way in Integrative Oncology.
It's the future.