Supplements that have some scientific support

By Joel Fuhrman, M.D.

Not All Alternative Therapeutic Approaches Are Without Merit For Further Investigation!

Although most alternative cancer therapies have proven ineffective at best, some supplements have shown promise. The study of mushroom extracts is a very important area in glycobiology concerning the beneficial effects of polysaccharides that are found in mushrooms such as maitake, shiitake, and reishi.

This kind of research deserves serious consideration because mushrooms have been demonstrated to hold promise in the prevention and possible treatment of cancer. Initial research in humans has yielded conflicting results. Some studies have tested mushrooms and mushroom extracts on humans with cancer and found no benefits, and other studies have claimed substantial benefits. Studies on animals and cell lines indicate a likelihood of some protective effects. Mushrooms are high in selenium and contain a wealth of beneficial phytochemicals. Whether concentrated mushroom extracts are beneficial when added to an excellent anti-cancer diet is still somewhat up in the air. But I would probably err on the side of caution and take the concentrated mushroom extracts since they have shown some benefits.1

Modified citrus pectin (MCP), also known as fractionated pectin, is a complex polysaccharide obtained from the peel and pulp of citrus fruits. MCP is rich in galactoside residues, giving it an affinity for certain types of cancer cells. Metastasis is one of the most life threatening aspects of cancer, and the lack of effective anti-metastatic therapies has prompted research on MCP’s effectiveness in blocking metastasis of certain types of cancers, including melanomas and prostate and breast cancers. Citrus pectins have been shown to slow the progression of prostate cancer and are thought to have other beneficial effects on slowing the spread of cancer. The question remains if taking additional supplemental pectin is better than simply eating citrus fruits.

One trial investigated the effect of citrus pectin in thirteen men with prostate cancer and biochemical prostate-specific antigen (PSA) failure after localized treatment (radical prostatectomy, radiation, or cryosurgery). Seven of the men had data that suggested that the PSA doubling time did slow down. This study suggests that MCP may lengthen the PSA Doubling Time in men with recurrent prostate cancer.2  Because the use of MCP has shown some benefit in studies on humans and has lots of benefits demonstrated in mice—such as reduction of tumor size3, it certainly warrants further investigation and use as an adjunct in the treatment protocol for cancer.


1. Zaidman BZ, Yassin M, Mahajna J, Wasser SP. Medicinal mushroom modulators of molecular targets as cancer therapeutics. Appl Microbiol Biotechnol 2005; 67(4):453-68. Kodama N, Komuta K, Nanba H. Can maitake MD-fraction aid cancer patients? Altern Med Rev 2002; 7(3):236-9. deVere White RW, Hackman RM, Soares SE, Beckett LA, Sun B. Effects of a mushroom mycelium extract on the treatment of prostate cancer. Urology 2002; 60(4):640-4.

2. Guess BW, Scholz MC, Strum SB, Lam RY, et al. Modified citrus pectin (MCP) increases the prostate-specific antigen doubling time in men with prostate cancer: a phase II pilot study. Prostate Cancer Prostatic Dis 2003; 6(4):301-4.

3. Hayashi A, Gillen AC, Lott JR. Effects of daily oral administration of quercetin chalcone and modified citrus pectin on implanted colon-25 tumor growth in Balb-c mice. Altern Med Rev 2000; 5(6):546-52. Nangia-Makker P, Hogan V, Honjo Y, et al. Inhibition of human cancer cell growth and metastasis in nude mice by oral intake of modified citrus pectin. J Natl Cancer Inst 2002; 94(24):1854-62.

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