Cancer Fighting Supplement - Beta Glucans - August 9, 2009

At some point each cancer fighter has to decide what conventional medical treatments to follow, and what, if any, other things to do to help battle the disease and discourage or prevent recurrence. The TURBT and BCG therapies from my doctor have been described in detail, and I have also discussed diet, exercise, vitamins, and supplements in general. When blog readers contact me, they generally outline that I am doing A, B, C and so forth and they are doing, A, C, X, Y and Z. I don't know if they expect me to comment or not, so I try to be encouraging. Even if I might have looked into X, Y or Z, I generally refrain from commenting and try to respond with something encouraging. One thing that occurs to me is that I could do a better job of explaining why I chose the things that I do in addition to the doctor's treatments. I previously outlined the diet and exercise regimens, and wrote at length about the Budwig Protocol and FOCC. So future posts will try to explain the logic and evidence behind the other supplements and vitamins I am taking.
One of the “alternative” cancer fighters that has been around for a long time is a series of compounds known as Beta Glucans, which are described as "biological response modifiers" because of their ability to activate the immune system. Beta Glucans seem to make the immune system work better without becoming overactive. In addition to enhancing the activity of the immune system, Beta Glucans may also lower elevated levels of LDL cholesterol, aid in wound healing, help prevent infections, and have potential as an adjuvant in the treatment of cancer.

While there are several forms of these compounds, there is one type that seems to have the best effects. Beta(1,3)D Glucans are chains of D-glucose molecules, with the six-sided D-glucose rings connected at the 1 and 3 positions. Smaller side chains branch off the (1,3) polysaccharide backbone. The most active form of Beta(1,3)D Glucans are those that contain (1,6) side-chains branching off from the longer Beta(1,3) Glucan backbone. These are referred to as Beta-1,3/1,6 Glucans. Researchers have suggested that it is the frequency, location, and length of the side-chains rather than the backbone of Beta Glucans that determine their immune system activity. Another variable is that some of these compounds exist as single strand chains, while the backbones of other Beta-1,3 Glucans exist as double or triple stranded helix chains. In some cases, proteins linked to the Beta(1,3) Glucan backbone may also be involved in providing therapeutic activity. Although these compounds have potential enhancing the immune system, there are differing opinions on which molecular weight, shape, structure, and source of Beta(1,3) Glucans provide the greatest therapeutic benefit. The Beta(1,3)D Glucans from yeast are often insoluble. Those extracted from grains tend to be both soluble and insoluble. Other sources include some types of seaweed, and various species of mushrooms such as Reishi, Shiitake, and Maitake.

How does it work? Research at Harvard, Baylor, Tulane, the Armed Services Radiobiology Research Institute, U. of Nevada School of Medicine and a multitude of other research centers demonstrates Beta Glucans extracted and processed from yeast cell wall enhance immune system awareness and attack of the cancerous cells. Beta Glucans promote cancer cell elimination by macrophages, neutrophils, T cells, NK cells and B cells with appropriate antibodies (including enhancing the cancer cell killing ability of processed monoclonal antibodies - mAB). Macrophages and other immune cells are better enabled to attack the cancerous cells, therefore hindering or stopping cancer’s multiplication and spread. Beta Glucans in uniform small particle sizes (micronized) may be taken orally, only if made in a preparation that will not reaggregate when exposed to water in the digestive system. This type of Beta Glucans is the only type that can be absorbed through the digestive tract into the bloodstream where it can be ingested by immune cells to yield a faster and more extensive response.
Specific research on the effect of Beta Glucans on bladder cancer was documented by Thompson I.M., Spence C.R,. Lamn D.L., DiLuzio N.R., “ Immunochemotherapy of bladder carcinoma with glucan and cyclophosphamide”, Am. J. Med. Sci. 294 (5): 294-300. 1987 The abstract of the article states:
Recent evidence suggests a role for both immunotherapy and chemotherapy in the treatment of transitional cell carcinoma. Glucan, a derivative of the cell wall of Saccharomyces cerevisiae and a potent immunostimulant, was used in combination with cyclophosphamide for treatment of implanted murine transitional cell carcinoma (MBT 2). Cyclophosphamide prevented tumor appearance when tumor burden was low and decreased tumor growth rate in larger tumor volumes, but was unable to eradicate established tumors. Glucan did not reduce tumor incidence but decreased animal mortality. These experimental observations may correlate well with clinical evidence and suggest future clinical use of these agents.

And yes, the Lamm cited above is Dr. Don Lamm, with whom I have consulted.

The evidence that Beta Glucans are useful and helpful for immune system boosting and free radical elimination is impressive. There are dozens of peer-reviewed research papers, often using mice or primates, that indicate the specific benefits in several cases. While not necessarily applicable to humans, such studies suggest a strong possibility of human efficacy.

Beta Glucans appear to be useful in fighting cancers (including bladder cancer) and aiding against a variety of disorders by stimulating the immune system. These supplements are not regulated and may be found in nearly any grocery, drug store, or heath food store,
and all over the internet, with a variety of brand names and price points. Yet there is evidence that the effects are quite different, and not always correlated to price. For best results, Beta 1, 3 Glucans should be taken on an empty stomach. Beta 1,3 Glucans are transported across the intestinal cell wall into the lymph and blood streams where they are available to activate immune function. Studies have verified that both small and large fragments of Beta Glucans are found in blood serum, indicating that they are absorbed from the intestinal tract. I took Glucans derived from mushrooms for a while, but recently switched to a yeast-based variety. The Journal of the American Neutraceutical Association (JANA) recently studied a number of commercially available Beta Glucans for a variety of effects in the human body. One product stood above the rest. You can read the entire JANA article here. Even though it costs about $1.50 per pill (or about $1 per pill in bulk), and you have to take one pill per 50 pounds of body weight (at 220 pounds I take 4 pills nightly), I feel that the research on benefits and effects justifies the cost and hassle. If you are interested, you can buy the yeast-derived product I am using at this link. Now you have the data to make your own decision.


Kathiesbirds said...

Very informative Steve. I have never heard of this stuff. Is there any way to get beta glucans from a food source?

Steve Kelley said...

Thanks Kathie!

Beta glucans do not occur naturally in the body, and you can get trace amount only by eating oats, barley, certain yeasts, and the types of mushrooms listed above.

Rapid Iq said...

Good research steve! I am also writing to inform you that yesterday I had my first(3 months after TURBT)check cystoscopy and other tests and by the grace of GOD, I have been declared all clear!
Thanks a lot to you and all for your support.

Dennis Pyritz, RN said...

Great Blog! You are a credit to the cancer blogging community. I have added you to my blogroll, “Cancer Blog Links” with over 600 other cancer blogs at, a cancer networking site featuring a cancer book club, guest blogs, cancer resources and more. Please stop by and visit. If you like the site, please consider adding Being Cancer to your blogroll.
Take care, Dennis

AJ said...

Beta Glucan: Nature’s Secret is a 100+ page book written by Dr. Vaclav Vetvicka, University of Louisville who lends over 15 years of his personal experience with Beta Glucans. Learn how to choose the best beta glucan to do the job you need it to do. The book is available on and a growing number of other outlets. There are 16 chapters as well as an extensive glossary and bibliography. This book is a must if you want to get the facts straight on this topic.

mike said...

Thank you for sharing your knowledge steve here it is 2015 and I hope you are still with us

Steve Kelley said...

Alive and doing well, thanks!