β-Glucans are polysaccharides generally obtained from the cell wall of bacteria, fungi, yeasts, and aleurone layer of cereals. β-Glucans are polymers, with β-1,3 glucose as core linear structure, but they differ in their main branch length, linkages and branching patterns, giving rise to high and low-molecular-weight β-glucans. They are well-known cell response modifiers with immune-modulating, nutraceutical and health beneficial effects, including anticancer and pro-apoptotic properties. β-Glucan extracts have shown positive responses in controlling tumor cell proliferation and activation of the immune system. The immunomodulatory action of β-glucans enhances the host's antitumor defense against cancer. In consonance with the above, many studies have shown that β-glucan treatment leads to the induction of apoptotic death of cancer cells. The ability of β-glucans to stimulate apoptotic pathways or the proteins involved in apoptosis prompting a new domain in cancer therapy. β-glucan can be a potential therapeutic agent for the treatment of cancer. However, there is a need to legitimize the β-glucan type, as most of the studies include β-glucan from different sources having different physicochemical properties. The body of literature presented here focuses on the effects of β-glucan on immunomodulation, proliferation, cell death and the possible mechanisms and pathways involved in these processes.
Keywords: Anti-proliferation; Apoptosis; Cancer; Immunomodulation; Pro-apoptotic; β-Glucan.
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