Cordyceps sinensis Promotes the Growth of Prostate Cancer Cells

Nutr Cancer. 2018 Oct;70(7):1166-1172. doi: 10.1080/01635581.2018.1504091. Epub 2018 Oct 1.


Background: This study aims to test whether Cordyceps sinensis (CS), the most expensive Asian nutrient supplement might stimulate growth of prostate cancer cells.

Methods: Impact of CS on growth of prostate cancer was determined in vivo and in vitro.

Results: Firstly, the serum testosterone level was significantly elevated in mice fed CS. Prostate glands were significantly enlarged (weight index 0.53 ± 0.04 mg/g vs. 0.31 ± 0.04 mg/g, P = 0.006). Furthermore, cell viability was increased twofold in the androgen-responsive prostate cancer cell line (VCaP) after CS treatment. This promoting effect disappeared after bicalutamide was added. In addition, serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in mice bearing VCaP xenografts was significantly elevated (0.66 ± 0.04 ng/ml vs. 0.26 ± 0.06 ng/ml, P < 0.001) after treatment with CS. Finally, VCaP tumors in mice treated with CS grew much faster (479.2 ± 78.74 mm3 vs. 283 ± 58.97 mm3, P = 0.074). However, the above promoting effects of CS were not observed in parallel studies using the PC-3 cell line which lacks AR expression.

Conclusions: These results suggest that CS promotes growth of prostate cancer cells by increasing production of testosterone and stimulating the AR-dependent pathway. Additional studies are required to see whether CS is safely consumed by patients with prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Carcinogens / toxicity
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cordyceps*
  • Dietary Supplements / adverse effects
  • Humans
  • Luteinizing Hormone / blood
  • Male
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Organ Size / drug effects
  • Plant Extracts / adverse effects*
  • Prostate / drug effects
  • Prostate / pathology
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen / blood
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / chemically induced*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism
  • Testosterone / blood*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Carcinogens
  • Plant Extracts
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Testosterone
  • Luteinizing Hormone
  • Prostate-Specific Antigen