Immunomodulatory activities of Yunzhi and Danshen in post-treatment breast cancer patients.

CK Wong, YX Bao, EL Wong, PC Leung, KP Fung, CW Lam.

Department of Chemical Pathology, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Prince of Wales Hospital, Shatin, Hong Kong, PR. China.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer among women worldwide. Discomfort and fatigue are usually arisen from anticancer therapy such as surgery, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, or combination therapy, because of the suppressed immunological functions. Yunzhi (Coriolus versicolor) can modulate various immunological functions in vitro, in vivo, and in human clinical trials. Danshen (Salvia miltiorrhiza) has been shown to benefit the circulatory system by its vasodilating and anti-dementia activity. The purpose of this clinical trial was to evaluate the immunomodulatory effects of Yunzhi-Danshen capsules in post-treatment breast cancer patients. Eighty-two patients with breast cancer were recruited to take Yunzhi [50 mg/kg body weight, 100% polysaccharopeptide (PSP)] and Danshen (20 mg/kg body weight) capsules every day for a total of 6 months. EDTA blood samples were collected every 2 months for the investigation of immunological functions. Flow cytometry was used to assess the percentages and absolute counts of human lymphocyte subsets in whole blood. Plasma level of soluble interleukin-2 receptor (sIL-2R) was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). Results showed that the absolute counts of T-helper lymphocytes (CD4+), the ratio of T-helper (CD4+)/T suppressor and cytotoxic lymphocytes (CD8+), and the percentage and the absolute counts of B-lymphocytes were significantly elevated in patients with breast cancer after taking Yunzhi-Danshen capsules, while plasma slL-2R concentration was significantly decreased (all p < 0.05). Therefore, the regular oral consumption of Yunzhi-Danshen capsules could be beneficial for promoting immunological function in post-treatment of breast cancer patients.

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Molecular characterization of Coriolus versicolor PSP-induced apoptosis in human promyelotic leukemic HL-60 cells using cDNA microarray.

F Zeng, CC Hon, WH Sit, KY Chow, RK Hui, IK Law, VW Ng, XT Yang, FC Leung, JM Wan.

Department of Zoology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. China.

Proteins and peptide bound polysaccharides (PSP) extracted from Basidiomycetous fungi are widely used in cancer immunotherapy and recently demonstrated to induce apoptosis in cancer cells in vitro. In order to provide the molecular pharmacological mechanisms of PSP on human cancer cells, we investigated the gene expression profiles of PSP-treated apoptotic human promyelotic leukemic HL-60 cells using ResGen 40k IMAGE printed cDNA microarray. In total 378 and 111 transcripts were identified as differentially expressed in the apoptotic cells by at least a factor of 2 or 3, respectively. Our data show that PSP-induced apoptosis in HL-60 cells might be mediated by up-regulation of early transcription factors such as AP-1, EGR1, IER2 and IER5, and down-regulation of NF-kappaB transcription pathways. Other gene expression changes, including the increase of several apoptotic or anti-proliferation genes, such as GADD45A/B and TUSC2, and the decrease of a batch of phosphatase and kinase genes, may also provide further evidences in supporting the process of PSP induced apoptosis in cancer cells. Some of the well-characterized carcinogenesis-related gene transcripts such as SAT, DCT, Melan-A, uPA and cyclin E1 were also alternated by PSP in the HL-60 cells. These transcripts can be employed as markers for quality control of PSP products on functional levels. The present study provides new insight into the molecular mechanisms involved in PSP-induced apoptosis in leukemic HL-60 cells analyzed by cDNA microarray.

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Induction of S phase cell arrest and caspase activation by polysaccharide peptide isolated from Coriolus versicolor enhanced the cell cycle dependent activity and apoptotic cell death of doxorubicin and etoposide, but not cytarabine in HL-60 cells.

KP Hui, WH Sit, JM Wan.

Department of Zoology, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. China.

Activation of the cell death program (apoptosis) is a strategy for the treatment of human cancer, and unfortunately a large number of drugs identified as cell cycle-specific agents for killing cancer cells are also toxic to normal cells. The present study demonstrates that the polysaccharide peptide (PSP) extracted from the Chinese medicinal mushroom, Coriolus versicolor, used in combination therapy in China, has the ability to lower the cytotoxicity of certain anti-leukemic drugs via their interaction with cell cycle-dependent and apoptotic pathways. Flow cytometry analysis demonstrated that pre-treatment of PSP (25-100 microg/ml) dose-dependently enhanced the cell cycle perturbation and apoptotic activity of doxorubicin (Doxo) and etoposide (VP-16), but not cytarabine (Ara-C) in human promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells. The antagonistic result from combined treatment with Ara-C and PSP may be caused by the removal of HL-60 cells in the G1-S boundary by PSP before exposure to Ara-C. A negative correlation between the increase in apoptotic cell population (pre-G1 peak) with the S-phase cell population expression (R2=0.998), the expression of cyclin E expression (R2=0.872) and caspase 3 activity (R2=0.997) suggests that PSP enhanced the apoptotic machinery of Doxo and VP-16 in a cell cycle-dependent manner and is mediated, at least in part, by the PSP-mediated modulation of the regulatory checkpoint cyclin E and caspase 3. This study is the first to describe the cell cycle mechanistic action of PSP and its interaction with other anticancer agents. Our data support the potential development of PSP as an adjuvant for leukemia treatment, but also imply the importance of understanding its interaction with individual anticancer agents.

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The cell death process of the anticancer agent polysaccharide-peptide (PSP) in human promyelocytic leukemic HL-60 cells.

X Yang, WH Sit, DK Chan, JM Wan.

Department of Zoology, The University of Hong Kong, Pokfalum Road, Hong Kong, SAR, P.R. China.

The polysaccharide peptide (PSP) isolated from the mycelia of Chinese Medicinal fungus Coriolus versicolor has proven benefits in clinical trials in China but the mechanism of action has not been elucidated. In this study, HL-60 cell line was used to investigate the anti-proliferation and cell death process of PSP. The cytotoxicity of PSP on normal human T-lymphocytes was also evaluated. We show that PSP induced apoptosis of human promyelocytic leukemia HL-60 cells but not of normal human T-lymphocytes. The apoptotic machinery induced by PSP was associated with a decrease in Bcl-2/Bax ratio, drop in mitochondrial transmembrane potential, cytochrome c release, and activation of caspase-3, -8 and -9. Activation of the cellular apoptotic program is a current strategy for the treatment of human cancer, and the selectivity of PSP to induce apoptosis in cancerous and not on normal cells supports its development as a novel anticancer agent.

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Differential anti-tumor activity of coriolus versicolor (Yunzhi) extract through p53- and/or Bcl-2-dependent apoptotic pathway in human breast cancer cells.

CY Ho, CF Kim, KN Leung, KP Fung, TF Tse, H Chan, CB Lau.

School of Pharmacy, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Shatin, New Territories, Hong Kong.

Coriolus versicolor (CV), also called Yunzhi, has been demonstrated to exert anti-tumor effects on various types of cancer cells, but the underlying mechanism has not been fully elucidated. The present study aimed to evaluate the in vitro anti-tumor activity of a standardized aqueous ethanol extract prepared from CV on four breast cancer cell lines using MTT assay, and test whether the mechanism involves apoptosis induction and modulation of p53 and Bcl-2 protein expressions using cell death detection ELISA, p53 and Bcl-2 ELISAs respectively. Our results demonstrated that the CV extract dose-dependently suppressed the proliferation of three breast tumor cell lines, with ascending order of IC50 values: T-47D, MCF-7, MDA-MB-231, while BT-20 cells were not significantly affected. Tumoricidal activity of the CV extract was found to be comparable to a chemotherapeutic anti-cancer drug, mitomycin C. Nucleosome productions in apoptotic MDA-MB-231, MCF-7 and T-47D cells were significantly augmented in a time-dependent manner and paralleled the anti-proliferative activity of CV extract. Expression of p53 protein was significantly upregulated only in T-47D cells treated with the CV extract in a dose- and time-dependent fashion, but not in MCF-7 (except at 400 mug/ml after 16 h) and MDA-MB-231 cells. The CV extract significantly induced a dose-dependent downregulation of Bcl-2 protein expression in MCF-7 and T-47D cells, but not in MDA-MB-231 cells. These results suggested that apoptosis induction, differentially dependent of p53 and Bcl-2 expressions, might be the possible mechanism of CV extract-mediated cytotoxicity in human breast cancer cells in vitro.

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Lack of prevention of large intestinal cancer by VPS, an extract of Coriolus versicolor mushroom.

M Coles, B Toth.

Eppley Institute, University of Nebraska Medical Center, Omaha, NE 68198, USA.

Cancer prevention studies were conducted with VPS, a hot water extract of the Coriolus versicolor (CV) mushroom, in female Swiss mice. The extract was administered in the diet for life to the animals. Three groups of mice received the following treatments: a). 1,2-dimethylhydrazine dihydrochloride (1,2-DMH) was administered as 10 weekly subcutaneous injections of 20 microg/g body weight, starting at 9 weeks of age; b). VPS was given at a 2% dose level starting at 7 weeks of age followed by 1,2-DMH, as described in group a; c). 1,2-DMH was administered as described in group a followed by VPS at a 2% dose level starting at 21 weeks of age. The number of animals with large intestinal tumors and the total number of these tumors were: a). 30,321; b). 29,359; and c). 28,415. These differences are not statistically significant. Because extracts of the CV mushroom are used by cancer patients as nutritional supplements in the U.S., and particularly in the Orient, the present negative result should caution its users.

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