Cancer treatment could be boosted by the addition of a mushroom that has been used in east Asian medicine for centuries, according to a new study.
A research team at the Boston University School of Medicine found that when combined with chemotherapy drug doxorubicin to treat the prostate form of the disease, the mushroom known as Phellinus linteus killed more cancer cells.
It is hoped that this discovery could mean lower doses of chemotherapy for cancer sufferers in the future.
Dr Chang-Yan Chen, lead researcher, said: "This species of mushroom has been reported to have some degree of activity in cancer patients. Our aim was to study what effect, if any, extracts of Phellinus linteus have, but we also need to know precisely how it produces these effects.
"Only when we have all this information will we be able to make full, safe and effective use of these mushroom extracts in people."
Dr Richard Sullivan, director of clinical programmes at Cancer Research UK, said that there have been many drugs which have been developed from natural resources. However, he maintained that these "cannot be assumed to be safe".
"Rigorous scientific studies are required to understand the full range of effects they produce," said Dr Sullivan.
"There was evidence that extracts of Phellinus linteus slowed tumour progression. Now they have shown promise in combination with one type of chemotherapy drug, but it is still too early to say whether it will be successful in the long run."