Radiation therapy and chemotherapy in the treatment of cancer often lead to myelosuppression, a compromised ability to create new blood cells. In this suppressed immune state, patients are more susceptible to infections and other pathogenic challenges.
Research by the U.S. Armed Forces Radiobiology Research Institute and others have found that systemic beta glucan reduces the time of recovery from radiation-induced myelosuppression, synergizing with endogenous cytokine and growth factor stimulation of hematopoeisis (formation of blood cells) in the bone marrow. In a preclinical study, white blood cell counts recovered 4 days faster than control animals following a sublethal dose of radiation (Figure 1). The importance of this faster recovery is evidenced by an increase in survival from 0% in control animals to 50% in beta glucan treated animals following a lethal dose of radiation (Figure 2).
Furthermore, beta glucan's unique mechanism action enhances the microbial killing activities of the macrophages and neutrophils. This important benefit provides the body with additional protection as it struggles to restore its immune system defenses. There is significant animal research demonstrating beta glucan's ability to enhance the innate immune response against bacterial and viral infections, and also demonstrating a synergistic effect when used in conjunction with antibiotics (Figure 3).