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SEATTLE -- It's not the kind of mushroom you would want to eat with your dinner, but it may be the strongest kind to help fight cancer, thanks to new research that focuses on the powerful fungus.
Something in our forests could be the newest treatment for cancer. It grows in the Pacific Northwest and in many parts of Asia, but you probably won't see it.
"As far as finding it growing, it's going to be pretty rare to find that," said Jeff Novack, a pharmacologist at Bastyr University in Seattle.
It's called the turkey tail mushroom -- named for its resemblance to the bird. A new study at Bastyr looks at whether this mushroom has the power to treat or even prevent cancer.
U.S. researchers will try to determine whether the mushroom is more effective against certain cancers than others.
"One of the reasons that we picked it is that preliminary data shows very encouraging evidence that it has very strong effects against cancer cells," Bastyr immunologist Cynthia Wenner said.
The turkey tail is already used to treat cancer in Asia. Researchers in the United States will specifically look at how breast and prostate cancers respond to the mushroom. Since it's a fungus, our immune system naturally fights it off. But it may produce a strong enough reaction to also kill cancer.
"It's actually tricking your body in a way to respond to the fungus, but the mushroom also is targeting the cancer cells for the immune cells to fight them off as well," Wenner said.
Researchers are using an extract of the mushroom for their study. They warn: Don't go reaching for a bowl of turkey tail yourself. The mushroom is too tough to eat. But doctors say people can boil the mushroom and drink the broth, which may contain some healing properties.
If you would like more information, please contact:
Kathleen Warren Director of Medical Community Relations Bastyr University 14500 Juanita Dr. NE Kenmore, WA 98028-4966 (425) 602-3103 firstname.lastname@example.org