Common Names

  • Shitake
  • Hua gu
  • Snake butter
  • Forest mushroom
  • Pasania fungus

For Patients & Caregivers

Lentinan may help extend the survival of patients with some cancers when used with chemotherapy.

Lentinan is a type of polysaccharide (sugar molecule) called 1,3 beta glucan. In laboratory tests, lentinan does not kill cancer cells directly. Instead, it enhances a number of aspects of the immune system, which may aid in slowing the growth of tumors. Lentinan also kills viruses and microbes directly in laboratory studies.

  • To prevent and treat cancer
    Several clinical trials show that lentinan combined with chemotherapy extends survival in patients with stomach, prostate, colorectal cancers, and hepatocellular carcinoma.
  • To lower cholesterol
    Laboratory studies support this use, but human data are lacking.
  • To stimulate immune system
    Laboratory and a few human studies show that lentinan increases the activity of certain immune cells.
  • To treat infections
    Laboratory and a few human studies show that lentinan increases the activity of certain immune cells.
  • A single case of chest tightness was reported following administration of lentinan.
Back to top

For Healthcare Professionals

Lentinan, a polysaccharide, is derived from the mycelium of the shiitake mushroom body, and its active component is 1,3 beta glucan. It is considered a biological response modifier.

In some countries, parenteral lentinan is classified as an antineoplastic polysaccharide and is available for clinical use. Addition of lentinan to standard cancer therapies resulted in increased tumor necrosis and mean survival as well as reduced recurrence in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (1), and improved quality of life in patients with esophageal carcinoma (15).

Improvements in quality of life and survival were also seen with an oral formulation of lentinan in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (10), gastric (11) (14), colorectal (12), and pancreatic (13) cancers. However, well-designed large-scale studies are needed to establish the role of lentinan as a useful adjunct to cancer treatment.

Only oral formulations and extracts, which are considered dietary supplements, are available for use in the United States.

  • Cancer prevention
  • Cancer treatment
  • High cholesterol
  • Immunostimulation
  • Infections

Lentinan’s active polysaccharide, 1,3 beta glucan, is not cytotoxic but seems to enhance T-helper cell function and increase stimulation of interleukin, interferon, and normal killer cells (3) (4). In vivo studies suggest that 1,3 beta glucan increases IL-4-producing cells, suggesting a stimulation of Th2-mediated immunity (5). In addition to antitumor activity, it also possesses immune-regulatory effects, antiviral activity, antimicrobial properties, and cholesterol-lowering effects (6).

Lentinan also was shown to induce apoptosis in gastric cancer cells, and this effect was enhanced when combined with docetaxel and cisplatin (16).

Case Report: Chest tightness following parenteral injection of lentinan (7).

Zidovudine (AZT): Lentinan may enhance activity when used along with AZT (8).
Didanosine (DDI, Videx): Concurrent use with Lentinan may increase CD4 levels in AIDS patients (9).

  1. Yang P, Liang M, Zhang Y, et al. Clinical application of a combination therapy of lentinan, multi-electrode RFA and TACE in HCC. Adv Ther. Aug 2008;25(8):787-794.

  2. Hobbs C. Medicinal Mushrooms. 3rd ed. Loveland (CO): Interweave Press; 1996.

  3. Chihara G, Maeda Y, Hamuro J, et al.Inhibition of mouse sarcoma 180 by polysaccharides from Lentinus edodes (Berk.) sing. Nature. May 17 1969;222(5194):687-688.

  4. Reed F. Immunomodulating and antitumor activity of lentinan. Int J Immunopharm. 1982;4:264.

  5. Wada T, Nishide T, Hatayama K, et al. [A comparative clinical trial with tegafur plus lentinan treatment at two different doses in advanced cancer]. Gan To Kagaku Ryoho. Aug 1987;14(8):2509-2512.

  6. Isoda N, Eguchi Y, Nukaya H, et al. Clinical efficacy of superfine dispersed lentinan (beta-1,3-glucan) in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma. Hepatogastroenterology. 2009 Mar-Apr;56(90):437-41.

  7. Oba K, Kobayashi M, Matsui T, Kodera Y, Sakamoto J. Individual patient based meta-analysis of lentinan for unresectable/recurrent gastric cancer. Anticancer Res. 2009 Jul;29(7):2739-45.

  8. Shimizu K, Watanabe S, Watanabe S, et al. Efficacy of oral administered superfine dispersed lentinan for advanced pancreatic cancer. Hepatogastroenterology. 2009 Jan-Feb;56(89):240-4.

  9. Yoshino S, Watanabe S, Imano M, et al. Improvement of QOL and prognosis by treatment of superfine dispersed lentinan in patients with advanced gastric cancer. Hepatogastroenterology. 2010 Jan-Feb;57(97):172-7.

  10. Wang JL, Bi Z, Zou JW, Gu XM. Combination therapy with lentinan improves outcomes in patients with esophageal carcinoma. Mol Med Report. 2012 Mar;5(3):745-8.

  11. Zhao L, Xiao Y, Xiao N. Effect of lentinan combined with docetaxel and cisplatin on the proliferation and apoptosis of BGC823 cells. Tumour Biol. 2013 Feb 13. [Epub ahead of print]

Back to top
Back to top
Email your questions and comments to aboutherbs@mskcc.org.

Last Updated