Magic mushrooms? Could fungus found in Polish forest help cure cancer?

Researchers noted that after carrying out tests on both physiological cells and colon cancer cells grown in laboratories, the fungus could contain properties which restrict the growth of bowel cancer. Tomasz Gzell/PAP

Fungus found in a Polish forest could be used as a potential cure for bowel cancer, according to research in at the Medical University and the University of Technology in Białystok.

Researchers found that the fungus from the roots of pine trees in Białowieża, sometimes called white rot because of the damage it can do to forests, can also destroy cancer cells.

The scientists noted that after carrying out tests on both physiological cells and colon cancer cells grown in laboratories, the fungus known as Heterobasidion annosum could contain properties which restrict the growth of bowel cancer.

Researchers found that the fungus from the roots of pine trees in Białowieża, sometimes called white rot because of the damage it can do to forests, can also destroy cancer cells.Darek Delmanowicz/PAP

The tests showed that cancer cells exposed to the fungus died faster than those which were not.

Halina Car from the Medical University of Białystok said: “Our research was carried out on cell lines and it showed us that cancer cells die quicker in comparison to those that did not receive the mushroom extract.

"This is very important, because it is usually the case that anti-cancer drugs also destroy healthy cells and are very toxic.”

She added: “Everything confirms that we are on the right path.

Halina Car from the Medical University of Białystok said: “Our research was carried out on cell lines and it showed us that cancer cells die quicker in comparison to those that did not receive the mushroom extract.”Halina Car

"Everyone we talked to is interested in [our] research. We have received inquiries from all over Poland and abroad about the possibility of transferring fungal extracts for research.”

The researchers, who conducted studies on fungi growing on both living trees and wood, have now applied for a patent.

Poland has one of the highest rates of colon cancer in Europe.

According to Iga Rawicka from the EuropaColon Poland Foundation, around 12,000 people die every year of colon cancer in Poland.

The studies were carried out on fungi growing on both living trees and wood.Tomasz Wojtasik/PAP

And figures from the Polish National Cancer Registry suggest that over 24,000 Poles will contract cancer in 2025.

By 2030, cases of colon cancer are expected to increase to 28,000 per year.

The high colon cancer rates are linked to the fact that not enough people get a colonoscopy to screen for the disease.