Many herbal medicines are widely used as immuno-modulators in Asian countries. Ganoderma lucidum (Lingzhi) is one of the most commonly used herbs in Asia and preclinical studies have established that the polysaccharide fractions of G. lucidum have potent immuno-modulating effects. However, clinical evidence for this is scanty. The present open-labeled study aimed to evaluate the effects of G. lucidum polysaccharides on selected immune functions in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Forty-seven patients were enrolled and treated with oral G. lucidum at 5.4 g/day for 12 weeks. Selected immune parameters were monitored using various immunological methods throughout the study. In 41 assessable cancer patients, treatment with G. lucidum tended to increase mitogenic reactivity to phytohemagglutinin, counts of CD3, CD4, CD8 and CD56 lymphocytes, plasma concentrations of interleukin (IL)-2, IL-6 and interferon (IFN)-γ, and NK activity, whereas plasma concentrations of IL-1 and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α were decreased. For all of these parameters, no statistical significance was observed when a comparison was conducted between baseline and those values after a 12-week treatment with G. lucidum. The changes of IL-1 were correlated with those for IL-6, IFN-γ, CD3, CD4, CD8 and NK activity (p < 0.05) and IL-2 changes were correlated with those for IL-6, CD8 and NK activity. The results indicate that G. lucidum may have potential immuno-modulating effect in patients with advanced colorectal cancer. Further studies are needed to explore the benefits and safety of G. lucidum in cancer patients.
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