Basidiomycete mushrooms represent a valuable source of biologically active compounds with anticancer properties. This feature is primarily attributed to polysaccharides and their derivatives. The anticancer potential of polysaccharides is linked to their origin, composition and chemical structure, solubility and method of isolation. Moreover, their activity can be significantly increased by chemical modifications. Anticancer effects of polysaccharides can be expressed indirectly (immunostimulation) or directly (cell proliferation inhibition and/or apoptosis induction). Among the wide range of polysaccharides with documented anticancer properties, lentinan, polysaccharide-K (PSK) and schizophyllan deserve special attention. These polysaccharides for many years have been successfully applied in cancer treatment and their mechanism of action is the best known.
Keywords: Basidiomycetes; Krestin; PSK; anticancer properties; lentinan; polysaccharides; schizophyllan.