Affiliation: Illawarra Health and Medical Research Institute, University of Wollongong, Northfields Ave, Wollongong, NSW2522, Australia.
Mushrooms have been consumed for their health benefits for thousands of years in China, and the main active component was recently identified as beta-glucan. The immune-stimulating effect of beta-glucans has been well studied, and several beta-glucan receptors have been identified on the surface of immune cells. In addition, mushroom extracts with high levels of beta-glucans have also been shown to have direct cytotoxic effects on cancer cells, and beta-glucans are used for the treatment of cancer. This review summarizes the use of beta-glucans in colon cancer. Evidence has supported the idea that beta-glucans can decrease the size of xenografted colon cancer tumors via the stimulation of the immune system and direct cytotoxicity. Beta-glucans can also have synergistic effects with chemotherapeutic agents and other immune stimulators, and an innovative strategy is to use beta-glucans to deliver nanoparticles containing chemotherapeutic agents to the site of the colon cancer and, thus, improve the therapeutic efficacy.