07/25/2015 09:12 EDT | Updated 07/25/2016 05:59 EDT

Cancer-fighting mushrooms sought in Northern B.C.

Researches from UNBC are searching the forests of northern B.C. for undiscovered mushroom species that may help in the fight against cancer.

Dr. Chow Lee and his team at the university in Prince George are hoping there exists species of fungi either not yet known, or with limited research done on them, that have cancer-fighting properties.

"It struck me that natural product research is very common in Asia. They get their mushroom species from supermarkets and companies that have the ability to go out to the forest to get them," says Dr.Lee, who is an associate professor of biochemistry and molecular biology.

"I thought we are in north B.C. which is rich in natural resources… basically mushrooms are in our backyards, so why don't we do this kind of research?"

He points the the species of mushrooms called Trametes versicolor, which is used to produce the compound Krestin, also known as PSK.

PSK has been used since the 1980s in Japan as a stimulant for the immune system in patients undergoing chemotherapy, which Lee says has had encouraging effects.

He says researchers have found that same species of fungi already in B.C.

"We have collected this particular mushroom species around Terrace. In the last two years we have actually processed 20 to 30 species and looked at their biological activity."

While that find was encouraging, Lee and his team say they are hoping their foraging some of the more remote locations of B.C. will yield an even greater find.

"We would like to find a PSK-like compound that's more potent and made in Canada. Hopefully it'll put UNBC on the map in medicinal chemistry, and hopefully we can find something that's beneficial to people.

"It's another weapon to help cancer patients get better."