My Audrey has hemangiosarcoma. In fact, she’s had it for over a year.
If you have a dog with hemangiosarcoma, that might sound strange to you … only 12% of dogs with this deadly cancer make it past 12 months.
But Audrey is determined to beat the odds … and I’m determined to help her. And I believe turkey tail mushrooms are a big part of Audrey’s success.
So today, I want to share an important study with you. I hope your dog never gets this aggressive cancer, but understanding this research will really help.
What Is Hemangiosarcoma?
Hemangiosarcoma happens when endothelial cells go rogue. Endothelial cells build blood vessels, so these vascular tumors are most common in organs with good blood supply. The most commonly affected organs are the spleen, liver, heart and skin.
Breeds that are most prone to hemangiosarcoma include:
- German Shepherds
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
The symptoms of hemangiosarcoma vary, depending on where the cancer is.
Skin tumors often show up as red or purple bumps, which can bruise or bleed. Tumors under the skin may feel like a benign fatty tumor, and can be either soft or firm.
The spleen is the most common location for hemangiosarcoma. If the tumors affect the internal organs, you’ll usually see:
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bulging belly
- Reduced stamina
- Decreased appetite
- Increased panting
- Pale gums
A Bleak Outlook
The sad news about hemangiosarcoma is that the survival rate is not very long.
The most important treatment is to remove the tumor, if possible. Conventional treatment will also include chemotherapy.
Even with treatment, the median survival rate for hemangiosarcoma is poor. If left untreated, most dogs survive just days or weeks. Surgery can extend the survival time to 1 – 3 months. And surgery plus chemotherapy can sometimes extend the survival time by another 3 months.
Only 12% of dogs with hemangiosarcoma live a year past diagnosis … even with treatment.
That’s the bad news. But a 2012 study at University of Pennsylvania offers more hope …
Enter The Turkey Tail Mushroom
Turkey tail mushroom (Coriolus versicolor) has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. In fact, it’s one of the most researched mushrooms there is.
Turkey tail mushrooms carry an array of health benefits. They’re immune modulating and are nice prebiotics. But there are two components that have cancer researchers excited: Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and polysaccharide-P (PSP).
Both PSK and PSP are beta-glucans … which are fibers that give the mushroom its structure. Beta-glucans can bind directly to your dog’s immune cells and restore a healthy immune response. They also bind to macrophages, which are the immune cells responsible for destroying cancer cells.
Turkey tail is well researched for its cancer-fighting properties … it’s been shown to extend survival time in patients with breast, stomach and colorectal cancer. These promising results prompted researchers to examine how this powerful mushroom might impact the survival time in dogs with hemangiosarcoma.
Turkey Tail Mushroom Research Shows Promise
In 2012, researchers at the University of Pennsyvania examined how polysaccharopeptide (PSP) from turkey tail mushrooms could help dogs with hemangiosarcoma. They gave PSP from turkey tail to dogs in a double blind study … with no other treatments.
The study results were remarkable … the dogs in the study had the longest survival times ever reported for dogs with the disease. Without surgery and without chemotherapy.
When they analyzed the results, the researchers identified two critical findings:
- The dogs had a much longer time before metastasis.
- The survival time seemed to increase with the size of the dose.
The survival time in dogs without treatment averaged 86 days. But the treatment groups saw much better survival times:
- Average survival time with 50mg/kg turkey tail daily: 117 days
- Average survival time with 100mg/kg turkey tail daily: 199 days
“We were shocked,” said professor and department chair Dorothy Cimino Brown.
“Prior to this, the longest reported median survival time of dogs with hemangiosarcoma of the spleen that underwent no further treatment was 86 days. We had dogs that lived beyond a year with nothing other than this mushroom as treatment.”
The differences in survival between the three dosage groups were not statistically significant. But the median survival time was highest in the 100 mg group … at 199 days.
The researchers were so surprised by the results, they rechecked the tissue biopsies. Yet the pathologists confirmed the dogs really did have hemangiosarcoma.
No Side Effects
Chemotherapy is the main conventional option for managing hemangiosarcoma … but this study shows it may not be a good option.
“It doesn’t hugely increase survival, it’s expensive … and it means a lot of back and forth to the vet for the dog,” says Brown. “So you have to figure in quality of life.”
Turkey tail mushrooms can offer owners a way to extend their pet’s life … without regular trips to the vet. And the researchers found no evidence of adverse effects.
My Turkey Tail Story
The good news is, mushroom beta-glucans work on many different cancers. In fact, PSP has been patented as an anti-cancer drug in both China and Japan. This study is hopefully the catalyst for better controlled studies on dogs with hemangiosarcoma and other cancers.
Today, Audrey is still chugging along. She enjoys daily walks in the woods and she eats with a good appetite. I know my days with Audrey are limited, but I’m thrilled that she’s been doing so well. And I feel that her daily mushrooms have added to her beating odds that are very much against her.
“Although hemangiosarcoma is a very sad and devastating disease,” says Brown, “in the long term, if we prove that this works, this treatment can be a really nice alternative for owners to have increased quality time with their pet at the end of its life.”
Brown DC, Reetz J. Single agent polysaccharopeptide delays metastases and improves survival in naturally occurring hemangiosarcoma. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:384301.