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Researchers Study Cancer-Fighting Properties in Mushrooms

An interdisciplinary team of UNBC researchers will further their study of local mushrooms as a potential cancer treatment thanks to a contract research agreement from Genome British Columbia.

The $52,000 provided from the Genome British Columbia Strategic Opportunities Fund will allow Biochemistry Professor Dr. Chow Lee and his fellow researchers to continue to search for and catalog the properties of local mushroom species.

UNBC is providing matching funds, bringing the total to more than $104,172.

“This funding from Genome British Columbia will help an outstanding team of UNBC researchers lead the way in finding new ways to treat and fight cancer,” says UNBC President Dr. Daniel Weeks.

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“By looking locally to find solutions to a global issue, this team is another example of the outstanding research happening in BC.”

As part of the project, researchers harvest a variety of wild mushroom species found all across Northern BC and then use different solvents to extract specific mushroom compounds and generate what is known as fractions.

Those fractions are then tested to see if they have any beneficial cancer-fighting properties.

The researchers are looking for mushroom fractions that can either block cancer cell growth on their own or can help stimulate the immune system and act as a catalyst to help the body fight cancer.

“History has taught us that there are many useful medicinal compounds from mushrooms,” says Dr. Lee.

“Yet, it is estimated that only 10 percent of mushroom species on earth are known. This means that mushrooms are a major untapped source of new, potentially powerful and natural pharmaceutical products.”

The project has been in development for more than two years and brings together researchers from UNBC’s Chemistry and Biochemistry programs who have expertise in cancer and the Ecosystem Science and Management Program who have expertise in the biology and ecology of wild mushrooms and native trees.

“The research being conducted by Dr. Lee’s team will enhance what’s known about medicinal fungi and is an example of a new and innovative way to use genomic tools. Although at the early stages, exploring the medicinal properties of mushrooms for cancer treatment is fascinating,” says Dr. Alan Winter, CEO, and President, Genome British Columbia.

“As genomic science becomes more sophisticated we’re better able to create meaningful solutions for British Columbians. To keep momentum towards practical applications, it’s important that we continue to support basic to applied research.”

Along with project leader Dr. Lee, the team also includes co-principal investigators Chemistry Professor Dr. Kerry Reimer, Ecosystem Science and Management Professors Dr. Keith Egger and Dr. Hugues Massicotte, and Chemistry Senior Laboratory Instructor Dr. Tina Bott.

In addition, four graduate students and two undergraduate students are involved in the project.

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