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Sunday, January 14, 2007

Drug extracted from mushrooms is found to be effective in treatment of cancer

The Scotsman: Scientists are preparing to conduct the first British clinical trials of a revolutionary drug extracted from mushrooms that is set to begin a new era in the treatment of cancer.

The drugs, which are based on a number of exotic species of fungi, are credited with dramatic benefits for stomach and bowel cancer sufferers in the Far East, with studies showing substantial increases to life expectancy rates in China and Japan.

Until now, British patients have missed out on the potential benefits from the drugs, because western researchers - particularly in the UK - have been slow to study the area.

Despite the delays, however, a team of scientists now plans to conduct trials in the UK after they convince regulators that the drugs pose no risk and are effective at treating the disease. Authorities in the United States have already certified the drugs as safe, and are expected to complete their approval in the summer.

There are 4,262 stomach and bowel cancer sufferers in Scotland. Bowel cancer is the second biggest cancer killer and last year around 1,500 people in Scotland died from the disease. The country's tendency towards smoking and a bad diet have been blamed for the high rate.

Sufferers last night hailed the possibility of a new generation of treatment as massively exciting, although experts warned against raising hopes that could later be dashed.

A team led by Dr Bjørn Kristiansen, the CEO of Norwegian firm Medimush and who previously lectured at Strathclyde, hopes to file an application to British regulators by the summer and begin trials somewhere in the UK in October.

Dr Kristiansen said: "I would be extremely surprised if the tests are not completed by the end of the year. There is no obvious reason for the regulator to say no - there are no side-effects - so it is just a matter of time as to when we go ahead with the trials."

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