A safe support to prime the immune system in cancer treatment

beta glucan activates macrophage receptors

‘Spontaneous regression’ and unexpected recovery in cases of cancer are very rare – but they do happen. Now scientists in the field believe that they might just have discovered a cause.

When they studied medical reports, they found that most people who experienced remission or regression of cancer, had also recently suffered from an acute infection.

Curiously this observation first goes back over 100 years.

Acivated immune system can instigate tumour regression – Coley’s Toxins

It was in the 1890s when a surgeon called William Coley of New York’s Memorial Hospital noticed that a patient with cancer had also developed a serious infection and fever following an operation to try to remove a tumour. The attempt to remove it was unsuccessful – but to Coley’s surprise, the tumour began to shrink on its own and ultimately disappear.

Coley puzzled over the incident and hypothesised that the infection had activated the patient’s immune system to work at a much higher level – and it was his activated immune system that caused the remission.

So he began to experiment on a further 10 cancer patients, initially by deliberately infecting them with a streptococcus bacteria that causes a severe rash on the skin.

Some patients did indeed go into remission – but in other cases the patients died of the infection. It was obviously a very risky procedure and an extreme case of kill or cure!

Of course, Dr Coley could not continue with such an approach, so he then developed a vaccine, subsequently called ‘Coley’s Toxins’, using dead bacteria.  Over the next 10 – 20 years this ‘immunotherapy’ regime produced some remarkable recoveries.

Coley considered that the fever that accompanied the infection was a critical element in the potential cure, but later research showed it wasn’t just the fever – it was the strengthening of the body’s innate immune system in response to the bacterial challenge.

But, as so often happens with a ‘low-tech’ approach like this, the discovery was mostly overlooked by later cancer researchers who were concentrating on chemotherapy, sterile surgical approaches and radiotherapy.

So the last recorded use of Coley’s Toxins immunotherapy appears to be in China in the 1980’s on a patient with ‘terminal’ liver cancer. The patient fully recovered!

Nevertheless some research has continued. For example, Rashidi and Fisher are researchers on leukaemia and they found that 90% of patients who had unexpectedly recovered from leukaemia had suffered another illness such as pneumonia shortly before the cancer disappeared. Other papers have noted tumours vanishing after diphtheria, hepatitis, influenza, malaria, and even measles.

Updating Coley’s Toxins

A US start-up company is planning to update Coley’s work, using a dual approach. It is collecting cells from a patient’s tumour and then exposing the patient’s immune cells to the tumour cells in order to ‘programme’ them to recognise the cancerous cells.

At the same time the patient is deliberately given a dose of dengue fever. The idea is that the patient – under supervision – will develop a fever causing the immune system to respond at a much higher level of activity. It sounds dangerous, but in fact dengue fever is rarely fatal if managed. So this is a case of ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger’.

But other scientists are researching and using a far less contentious approach. Indeed, the Cancer Research Institute (CRI) states that:

“Cancer immunotherapy — treatments that harness and enhance the innate powers of the immune system to fight cancer — represents the most promising new cancer treatment approach since the development of the first chemotherapies in the 1940s.”

Beta glucans – a safe and effective food supplement to activate the immune system

No one should ignore the hard-won successes of modern cancer treatments. Certainly, if I or a member of my family were diagnosed with cancer, I would abide by a modern oncologist’s regime.


Is there a way that we can take Coley’s original findings and use a safe (and natural) way to boost the immune system to complement modern therapies and surgeries. And without deliberately exposing yourself to an infection or fever?

Research suggest that one promising way involves a natural compound derived from the cell walls of yeast called 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans.

But before we go into detail, let’s look why progress in the fight against cancer has been somewhat disappointing. Because although cancer treatments have been successful in extending the length of survival rates, the data indicates they have not greatly reduced the average patient’s risk of dying from the disease.  Why?

Modern cancer treatments involve immuno-suppression

Both chemotherapy and radiotherapy have a directly immuno-suppressive effect. And in the case of chemotherapy, the drugs interfere with cell division, which is an essential activity of the immune system, and so suppress the effectiveness of normal immune response.

Surgery, too, entails risk. Because each time an incision is made into a cancerous tumour, there is always a chance of cancer cells entering the blood stream and spreading (the scientific term is ‘metastasizing’) to invade surrounding tissue. And antibiotics, which are used to prevent infection during and after surgery can have an immune-suppressive effect.

So in one way, modern cancer treatments, by lowering immune response, make ‘spontaneous remissions’ less likely. But the fact that it occurs at all, albeit very rarely, shows that cancer is not an irreversible process.

Boosting the immune system safely – without infection

The main report in the Journal of Natural Science, Biology and Medicine that unearthed the history of immune-stimulation and its potential role in cancer management, concluded that:

“An ideal cancer management would involve the stimulation of the immune system.”

So we might conclude that stimulating the immune system should be an effective complementary therapy to be used in conjunction with the modern armoury of more conventional treatments – and we will see that it can.

But while a fully functioning immune response can be sufficient to cure some cancers in some patients, it can only ever be part of the answer. This is because cancer cells are frequently able to ‘hide’ from the immune system, which cannot kill what it cannot ‘see’.

The problem is that the immune system must be able to recognise the cancer cells as ‘non-self’ and attack them. And often it cannot make this distinction.

But supposing there was a way to mark or ‘paint’ cancer cells in such a way that the immune system would lock onto the cancer and attack it?

The role of beta glucans

There are several types of beta glucan.

Oat beta glucans are the ones that can help lower cholesterol – one reason porridge is good for you.

But the beta glucans being researched and used as adjunct therapy in cancer are a type called 1-3,1-6 beta glucans (the numbers refer to their chemical structure). This is found in certain mushrooms, but particularly in the cell walls of baker’s yeast (saccharomyces cerevisiae).

In its effective form it must be very finely milled and entirely separated from the proteins that could cause a yeast reaction.

Over 500 scientific papers have now examined and demonstrated the ability of 1-3,1-6 beta glucans to boost the immune system – a process called immune-modulation. It works this way.

Certain immune cells react to yeasts as pathogens

Certain of your immune cells have evolved to react to yeast particles, treating them as pathogenic (dangerous) invaders. The reaction leads to an increase in both the numbers and activity of these key immune cells.

These immune cells include neutrophils, Natural Killer cells and macrophages. Natural Killer cells attack and destroy pathogens like bacteria and viruses and are known to be able to detect and destroy tumour growth under certain circumstances. Macrophages literally consume pathogens to be eliminated. Macrophages also release chemicals that enable immune cells to communicate with each other.

So taking 1-3,1-6 beta glucans is an effective way to combat not just bacterial invaders but viral pathogens like cold or flu viruses. And recent work indicates it can also prime the immune system to be better able to attack cancer cells.

Other components of the immune system that are activated by beta glucans are white blood cells called lymphocytes. There are two types of lymphocyte – B cells and T cells. B cells mature in the Bone marrow and T cells mature in the Thymus gland.

B cells produce antibodies while T cells stimulate B cells to produce more antibodies. Some of these antibodies can identify or ‘paint’ tumour cells as abnormal, identifying them as non-self. They can then bind or lock on to the cancer cells and release chemicals to destroy them.

Beta glucan as adjunct to monoclonal antibody therapy

It is due to these properties that beta glucans have been researched over the last 20-30 years for their ability to help fight cancer. And they are increasingly being used as adjunctive therapy for cancer tumours according to a survey in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Safety.

In particular oral ingestion of beta glucans has been shown (International Immunopharmacology 2007) to support and enhance a type of cancer treatment called monoclonal antibody therapy – or mAbs.  mAbs therapies include drugs such as Herceptin, Rituxan and Erbitux, which activate “complement” in a similar way to beta glucans. A review in American Association for Cancer Research concluded that:

“… the therapeutic efficacy of mAbs known to activate complement (eg. Herceptin, Rituxan and Erbitux) could be significantly enhanced if they were combined with β-glucan.”

Beta glucan in combination with immune checkpoint inhibitors

Another recent and promising pharmaceutical approach is to combine 1-3,1-6 beta glucans with a drug called an immune check-point inhibitor.

One way in which cancer outsmarts the immune system is because cancer cells can make certain proteins that inhibit normal immune responses and keep T cells from killing the cancer cells. The check point inhibiter drug works by blocking or neutralising these proteins. When the “brakes” on the immune system are released, the T cells are better able to kill cancer cells.

Importantly beta glucans also strengthen the body’s general immune response during chemotherapy and radiation – treatments which would otherwise make the body more susceptible to infection as they are immuno-suppressive.

Beta glucans are safe because they cannot overstimulate the immune system

1-3, 1-6 beta glucans are natural and safe and cannot trigger a dangerous response called a ‘cytokine storm’. This is where the immune system becomes dangerously over-stimulated releasing excessive pro-inflammatory cytokines – a problem that has been noted with some herbal immune stimulants.

1-3, 1-6 beta glucans prime the immune system rather than stimulating it, and although the distinction is subtle, it is important.

Beta glucans are ideal immune primers against bacteria and viruses, as well as an adjunct to cancer drugs

1-3, 1-6 beta glucans do prime and boost the immune system and are well worth using preventatively and for treating bacterial or viral threats.

Whilst they are certainly NOT a miracle cure for such a complex and challenging disease as cancer, they are natural and safe and worth exploring as a complementary supplement to conventional therapies.

The most extensively researched purified 1-3,1-6 beta glucan extract is called Wellmune – with over £120 million worth of research behind it.  It is milled into extremly fine particles that are critical to the effectiveness of beta glucans – and it is the main active ingredient in the immune-enhancing product called ImmunoShield.

Wellmune beta glucans have not only been researched as a general immune-modulator, but were rated number 1 by the Canadian Department of National Defense when they were researching immune boosters against biological or radiation weapons.

The body cannot make its own beta glucans so they must be taken in orally (or in their pharmaceutical versions injected). Results appear to be good for either form.

How to take beta glucan supplements

If you are wanting to use beta glucans regularly and protectively – then a dose of 250mg a day (1 ImmunoShield caplet) of 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans should be enough.

If you are seeking to ward off a bacterial or viral threat like a cold or flu, then a dose of 500 – 750 mg a day (2-3 ImmunoShield caplets) for a few days then followed by one a day, will usually be enough.

If, however, the intention is to support cancer treatment, then the first priority must be to discuss the use of 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans, as an additional support to the prescribed treatment, with the physician and oncologist.

As a guide, however, and using research from the James Graham Brown Center at the University of Louisville, Kentucky, the effective daily dose appears to be related to body weight:

  • At 57kg / 126 lbs /9 stone, the suggested daily intake is 1,250mg of beta glucans – 5 caplets ImmunoShield
  • At 70kg / 154 lbs /11 stone, the suggested dose is 1,750mg – 7 caplets
  • At 90kg / 198 lbs /14 stone, the suggested dose is 2,250mg – 9 caplets

To repeat, this suggested use must be with the physician’s permission.

Reduce cancer risk preventatively with nutrition

Finally if you are looking to cut the risk of cancer preventatively, then Reduce cancer risk and maximise your health span by Dr Paul Clayton, former Chair Forum on Food and Health at the Royal Society of Medicine summarises a comprehensive overall strategy.

The foundation of an anti-cancer lifestyle is a largely plant-based diet featuring fresh fruits (especially dark berries) and vegetables (include broccoli and shiitake mushrooms), regular exercise, regular sleep, and a vitamin D3 supplement in the winter.

In addition to beta glucans, there is good evidence to include a nutritional supplement that includes grapeseed extract, Omega 3, curcumin and green tea in it – as well as a full range of vitamins and minerals.

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ImmunoShield contains 250mg of Wellmune 1-3, 1-6 beta glucans per caplet. It is a completely safe, non-drug food health supplement. See more detail elsewhere on this site or click on the button.

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https://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatments-and-side-effects/treatment types/immunotherapy/monoclonal-antibodies.html