A study of Medicinal Mushrooms and Breast Cancer

Last Updated on March 6, 2023

Medicinal mushrooms are known for their medicinal applications and potential anti-cancer properties. Recently, they have been the subject of multiple studies related to breast cancer treatment owing to their remarkable anti-cancer properties.

In this article, we are going to focus on medicinal mushrooms which are helpful for the treatment of breast cancer. The following is a list of the mushrooms discussed in this article:

  • Lion’s mane mushroom
  • Chaga mushroom
  • Cordyceps mushroom
  • Reishi mushroom
  • Turkey tail mushroom
  • Maitake mushroom

Lion’s Mane Mushroom and Breast cancer

Extracts of Hericium erinaceus have demonstrated anti cancer properties in multiple cancer cell lines by inhibiting metastasis and cancer cell migration. Lion’s mane mushroom is also known to inhibit apoptosis, cell viability and cause disruption of cell cycle in lung cancer and breast cancer cells.

The aqueous extract of H. erinaceus has shown to be capable of decreasing the viability of MCF-7 breast cancer cell lines in a time- and dose-dependent manner. Apoptosis and G1 cell cycle arrest were greatly increased in cells after treatment with the mushroom extract. The medicinal mushroom extract is known to disrupt the following transcripts in MCF-7 cell lines.

  • HES family basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor 1 (HES1),
  • Eukaryotic translation initiation factor 1 (EIF1),
  • Cyclin L1 (CCNL1),
  • c-Fos,
  • FBJ murine osteosarcoma viral oncogene homolog (FOS),
  • Kelch-like family member 24 (KLHL24)
  • Early growth response 2 (EGR2),
  • EGR3

The tumor supressor protein P53, the Janus kinase signal transducer and activator of transcription JAK-STAT, transforming growth factor-β, and mitogen-activated protein kinase were the cancer signalling pathways that were significantly enriched in response to H. erinaceus treatment for differentially expressed genes.

Chaga Mushroom and Breast Cancer

Known by the common name of Chaga mushroom, Inonotus obliquus, is one of the most extensively consumed wild edible mushrooms in Russia and northern European nations, and it is well-known for its use in cancer therapy. The mushroom Chaga is used as a supplemental medication by many cancer patients, including those undergoing chemotherapy or radiation.

In a recent study on mice, the Chaga mushroom extract was administered orally, and the blood levels of IL-6 were higher. The levels of TNF-α were significantly reduced thus  TNF-related pathological disorders may be successfully suppressed by this mushroom. These results indicate that during chemotherapy, it may help to boost the immune system. Moreover in rats, the treatment of induced early-stage breast cancer with Chaga mushroom extract resulted in considerable tumor suppression. The most significant finding was that the mushroom extract was synergistic with an anticancer chemotherapeutic drug, in suppressing tumor growth.

  • A research conducted to elucidate the mechanism of Chaga mushroom extract’s anticancer activity on breast cancer cell lines had the following findings
  • mTOR, S6, and S6K1 phosphorylation were inhibited, indicating that Chaga mushroom triggered autophagy via activating AMPK and inhibiting mTOR signaling pathways.
  • The mushroom extract boosted LC3 expression and AMPK phosphorylation. The mushroom extract substantially inhibited tumor development in BALB/c mice harboring 4T1 tumors, consistent with its documented cytotoxic action in vitro.
  • It was shown that inotodiol and trametenolic acid were the key ingredients responsible for the mushroom extract’s deadly action on breast cancer cells.
  • Conclusively, by activating AMPK and blocking the mTOR signaling pathway, Chaga mushroom extract promoted autophagy in breast cancer cell lines.

Cordyceps Mushrooms and Breast Cancer

Cordyceps militaris is also known for its antitumor activity, immunomodulatory and anti-cancer activities in human breast cancer cell lines. Cordyceps mushrooms have been known to induce apoptosis by activation of caspase-3 and alteration of mitochondrial permeability. Apoptosis caused by the mushroom extract was related to a time-dependent reduction of Akt activation. The findings revealed that cordyceps-induced apoptosis may be related to caspase-3 activation and mitochondrial instability, which are associated with Akt inactivation in human breast cancer cells MDA-MB-231. Moreover, solid-state fermented rice extracts from C. militaris have shown antioxidant, antiproliferative properties on MCF-7 breast cancer cell lines.

C.militaris has also shown apoptotic, immunogenic cell death, and antitumor effects in human breast cancer cells (MCF-7, HS578T, MDA-MB-231, and SKBR) as well as mouse cell lines in a time and dose-dependent manner.

Reishi Mushrooms and Breast Cancer

Reishi, also referred to as Ganoderma spp. is a genus well known specifically for its action against breast cancer and is probably the most studied mushroom for breast cancer treatment. Ganoderma lucidum has been investigated to affect cell growth and survival in an inflammatory human breast cancer cell line IBC SUM-149 by affecting the PI3K/AKT/mammalian target of mTOR pathway.

Ganoderma lucidum inhibits the transcription factor NF-KB by suppressing Akt phosphorylation on Ser473 and Akt expression, thus effectively reducing cell invasion in MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell lines. Moreover, G. lucidum has been investigated to suppress breast cancer by targeting multiple pathways and components including AKT, p-AKT, AP1, Bax, BCL2, Caspase 3,7,8,9, cyclins, c-myc, CDCs and CDK in multiple human breast cancer cells

Turkey Tail and Breast Cancer

Turkey Tail, Trametes versicolor, has undergone clinical trials in women with breast cancer as a means to improve the immune system after undergoing chemotherapy. Multiple other clinical trials revealed higher quality of life after surgery and when combined with chemotherapy due to its ability to strengthen immune system, as well as prolonged 5- and 10-year survival rates in multiple types of cancers including lung cancer and breast cancer. Immune-activating pro-inflammatory cytokines (IL-2 and IL-6), Interleukin-10 (IL-10), anti-viral cytokines interferon-gamma (IFN-gamma), anti-inflammatory cytokines Interleukin-1 receptor antagonist (IL-1ra) and, Macrophage Inflammatory Protein-alpha (M (IL-8) are found to be increased when human cell lines are treated with turkey tail mushroom extracts. These anti-inflammatory and immune system modulation activities make this mushroom a strong synergist along with chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

Maitake Mushroom and Breast Cancer

Nutritional supplements are often used by cancer patients to “enhance immune system function.” In preclinical tests, a polysaccharide extract from Grifola frondosa (Maitake extract) has shown immunomodulatory properties, indicating that it has the potential for therapeutic use. However, in one trial of Grifola frondosa, it was found that polysaccharide extract from this mushroom showed both stimulatory and inhibitory effects on the immune system of breast cancer patients.

Several studies have indicated that the Maitake mushroom has the ability to operate directly on breast cancer cells, altering the several cellular processes that are involved in the formation and progression of breast cancer. It has also been shown that the maitake mushroom increases cell adhesion, lowers cell viability, and inhibits the migration and invasion of breast tumor cells, leading to less proliferative cell behavior in a mouse model of breast cancer cells. The mechanism of action of maitake mushroom involves activation of the BAK-1 gene to induce apoptosis in MCF7 human breast cancer cells.

Conclusion: Are medicinal mushrooms helpful for breast cancer?

Medicinal mushrooms have been used in traditional medicine in China, Russia, and Europe for centuries and now their mechanism of action on breast cancer inhibition is being investigated. The reason for this increased interest is due to increasing evidence of their anti-cancer effects on in vitro and in vivo breast cancer models.

With an increasing number of clinical trials and studies demonstrating the potential of medicinal mushrooms in the treatment of breast cancer such as turkey tail mushrooms, reishi mushrooms, and maitake mushrooms, the efficacy of these mushrooms in breast cancer continues to be explored.


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  2. Atay, S., Ak, H., Kalmis, E., Kayalar, H., & Aydin, H. H. (2021). Transcriptome-Wide Analysis Reveals the Molecular Mechanism of Tumoricidal Effects of Lion’s Mane Medicinal Mushroom, Hericium erinaceus (Agaricomycetes), on MCF-7 Breast Cancer Cells. International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 23(1). https://www.dl.begellhouse.com/journals/708ae68d64b17c52,367ee73d7a1caab0,3d4c5fa53a165c60.html
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Medicinal Mushroom Supplements

If you are looking to use medicinal mushroom supplements, please check out our guides below. This will help you identify high quality medicinal mushroom powders and capsules in United States and Canada.

For medicinal mushroom supplement powders in Australia, check out the following articles:


  • Dr Abdullah Ahmad is a molecular biologist, biotechnologist, and author and contributor to medicinal mushroom health articles. He graduated from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences with a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) and compelting his Molecular Biology and Biochemistry 2021-2025 (expected).

World Mushroom Society is a collective of fungi enthusiasts and health advocates, sharing information, research, studies, and identifying top producers of high quality medicinal mushroom supplements.


The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information found here is not meant as a substitute for, or alternative to, information from your doctor for ongoing medical treatment you currently receive. If unsure, please consult with your doctor before using medicinal mushrooms. Any content related to cancer should not be considered as prescriptive medical advice and should not be a substitute for any cancer treatment, unless advised by your doctor first. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by TGA and FDA-approved research. If you are pregnant or on prescription drugs that thin the blood, consult with your medical professional before using medicinal mushrooms.
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