Hypernephroma (also called renal cell carcinoma) accounts for approximately 2% of global cancer deaths, but recently its number has doubled compared to the past half-century. Today it is the ninth most common neoplasm in the United States. Unfortunately, hypernephroma is often diagnosed after it has metastasized to distant regions of the body, thus resulting in poor prognosis even after surgical procedure is done. Currently, the survival rate of hypernephroma is about 76% in 5 years after diagnosis with optimal treatments.
Hypernephroma patients often suffer from low quality of life
Hypernephroma patients are prone to low quality of life during the duration of their disease. As with almost all tumors, pain is a major factor contributing to the situation. It often has a negative impact on patients’ functional status and quality of life.
Tumor therapies such as chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and targeted therapy often cause numerous side effects. These include hair loss, nausea and vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and dizziness, among others. As these patients continue their treatment, they have to somehow bear with the symptoms that they bring, and eventually also decrease the quality of life of the patients.
In order to improve patients’ quality of life, physicians will suggest most high-grade or end-stage cancer patients, including hypernephroma patients, for palliative care. This kind of therapy does not aim to treat the disease, but rather improve the quality of life. The goals of palliative therapy are:
- Relieve symptoms such as fatigue, nausea, pain, and general discomfort
- Help patients sleep
- Ease emotional stress
- Keep patients motivated
Medicinal mushrooms as a natural approach for enhancing quality of life
A comprehensive effort including a nutrition-rich diet, healthy lifestyle, exercise, and energy management can provide the needed resources for the body to battle against any tumor such as hypernephroma. Natural agents called adaptogens possess health benefits and play positive roles towards cancer prevention or treatments through several pathways such as inhibition of carcinogenesis and protection of body cells. As natural adaptogens, medicinal mushrooms offer a great variety of healthy compounds to strengthen the immune system in combating cancer.
One good example is Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum). This widely popular species has been extensively studied for its health benefits, especially as adjuvant in cancer. Reishi is thought to be able to protect the renal cell against superoxide induced damage, according to a pre-clinical study published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine. The study evaluated the extract of Reishi in the liver and kidney and showed that Reishi demonstrated antioxidative effects on lipid peroxidation. Triterpenes, compounds found in Reishi, are known to be inhibitors of MMP (Matrix metallo-proteases) which regulate cellular motility and invasion. Another study exposed isolated renal tumor cells to Reishi, and it found that Reishi inhibited growth and down-regulated MMP-2 and MMP-3 expression by the renal tumor cells.
Cordyceps sinensis was also studied for its therapeutic benefits for the treatment of cancer. Cordycepin, the main bioactive molecule in this specie, had been extracted and shows tumor growth inhibition and promotion of apoptosis in cancer cells. A case series was conducted in 2016 in two male patients with metastatic renal cell carcinoma treated by both standard therapy and integrative medicine consisting of extracts from various medicinal mushrooms including Ganoderma lucidum and Cordyceps sinensis. Following over four years of standard therapies and integrative care, these patients experienced improved quality of life and lived years beyond their predicted remaining life span.
Medicinal mushrooms are a viable approach to be incorporated into hypernephroma therapies. As an adjuvant therapy, medicinal mushrooms can provide positive roles in protecting body cells in hypernephroma as well as inhibiting disease progression in other tumors. Combined with standard therapy and supported by good management of health, diet, and exercise, hopefully patients will experience improved quality of life and better health during their battle against cancer.