The compound is called “verticillin A.” What it does is sensitize cancer cells to “TRAIL,” which is a drug that causes cancer cells to self-destruct. In this way, the natural medicine world teams with the pharmaceutical world for a potent combination.
The mushroom ingredient keeps cancer cells from being able to resist the cancer drug. This targets a major problem for cancer treatment, which is drug resistance. This accounts for more than 90% of treatment failures in patients with cancers that have metastasized. The wild mushroom from southern China helps make drugs work again.
Experience has shown that most cancer cells have found a way to become resistant to TRAIL, illustrating the limitations of modern medicine. And tough cancer cells are also far less likely to commit “suicide,” which is how TRAIL works.
The new study was performed in mice. It found that verticillin A alone was adequate to kill cancer cells, but the required dose made the mice sick, a common problem with many cancer therapies. But when a lower dose was paired with TRAIL, it became a powerful, more tolerable recipe that killed previously resistant cells.
The mushroom compound also improved the efficacy of the commonly used cancer drugs etoposide and cisplatin, which also work by promoting cancer cell death. Thus, the researchers think verticillin A could be great for a wide variety of cancer drugs.
One way verticillin A appears to work is by regulating a gene that promotes cell death. The researchers did more studies into metastatic human colon cancer cells, which are highly resistant to treatment, including TRAIL, both in culture as well as transplanted into mice. They did similar studies on sarcoma, lung adenocarcinoma, and breast cancer.
They are interested next in testing the natural compound’s potential in melanoma and pancreatic cancer. Score one for the wild mushrooms oceans away.