Beta glucans, also known as Β-glucans, are polysaccharides that come from the cell walls of oats, barley, mushrooms, yeast, bacteria, and fungi. They bind to immune receptors and can attract immune cells into the tumor environment. Depending on where they are derived, B-glucans can have different effects. It is still unclear which source of B-glucans is superior, if any. Theoretically the oat/barley-based B-glucans may have an advantage, but that still is not fully proven. No matter the source, all types of B-glucans seem to have immune enhancing properties. They are able to decrease regulatory cells and increase immune-stimulating cytokines, which can help “turn up the heat” in the tumor microenvironment. Since a cold tumor microenvironment is a major reason for immunotherapy failure, B-glucans have the potential to boost the response of immunotherapy.
As I had mentioned before, the potential list of natural substances that may be immune-stimulating is exhaustive. I selected some of the ones that I thought have the most evidence and potential, without being too overwhelming. A patient can only take so many supplements and medications.
Now that you know about a few immune enhancing supplements, we have to discuss some of the darker side of immunotherapy, adverse reactions. Thankfully we can use intra-tumoral injection to minimize these side effects, while maximizing success and reducing cost.