Cancer is one of the most feared diagnoses in the world. As humans we sometimes forget that we’re not the only ones to face this difficult and deadly disease. Pets, our four-legged family members, are at risk for several different types of cancer, including breast cancer, bone cancer, skin cancer, cancer of the mouth, and cancer of the lymphatic system.
Like us, canines have limited choices for cancer treatment. Surgery, chemotherapy and radiation treatments are the most common, but these methods often have dire side-effects and spotty success rates. Now, new research from the University of Pennsylvania have discovered that an ancient medicine made from mushrooms may give dogs with an aggressive form of cancer the best chance at survival.
The medicine tested by U of P scientists is actually a mushroom compound that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than two centuries. It’s made using the Coriolus versicolor mushroom, known commonly as the Yunzhi mushroom, which is believed to have immune-boosting properties and tumor-busting qualities thanks to a compound known as polysaccharopeptide, or PSP.
To find out if dogs provided with the mushroom compound really lived longer than their cancer-free counterparts, the scientists sought out 15 canines that had been diagnosed with hemangiosarcoma. Divided into three groups of five, each group received a different dose — 25, 50 or 100 mg/kg/day — of “I’m-Yunity”, a formulation of PSP that has been tested for consistency and good manufacturing processes. The dogs were brought in on a monthly basis so researchers could take blood samples and monitor the size of their tumors. The results were more than positive.
“We were shocked,” said Dorothy Cimino Brown, chair of the Department of Clinical Studies and director of the Veterinary Clinical Investigation Center. “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.” So far, researchers have detected no adverse side effects from the PSP treatment.
The implications of this discovery are enormous, both for canines and humans. Not only does “I’m-Yunity” offer a more natural (though still expensive) way for pet owners to treat their furry loved ones, there’s potential for the development of similar treatments for humans. Before that point, however, scientists say more research is necessary. But they’re hopeful.
“Although hemangiosarcoma is a very sad and devastating disease,” Cimino Brown said, “in the long term, if we prove that this works, this treatment can be a really nice alternative for owners to have increased quality time with their pet at the end of its life.”
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