Sanda Zolj worked with Dr. Joann Lau for two years investigating the use of reishi mushroom (Ganoderma lucidum) as a potential treatment for lung cancer. Sanda developed this research topic independently. She treated female lung cancer cells in vitro with a wide range of reishi extract concentrations and examined cancer growth at three different time-points. Ms. Zolj also determined that the bioactive component in this shelf mushroom is a triterpenoid. She worked extensively to further isolate the active components using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry and high-performance liquid chromatography.

Her research was recognized at the 2009 Posters on the Hill event in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the Council on Undergraduate Research. Only 12% of students who applied, from throughout the country, were selected for this honor.  Along with her colleague Ms. Melissa Pawley, Sanda met with Kentucky Senators Mitch McConnell and Jim Bunning, as well as with Representative John Yarmuth of the 3rd Kentucky District. She has presented her research at numerous other state and regional conferences, and received two awards.


There is a growing interest in the use of natural products for the treatment of cancer.  For centuries, Chinese herbalists have used the Reishi mushroom [Ganoderma lucidum (Curtus) P. Karst] as a remedy for diseases like hepatitis, bronchitis, and cancer.  This study examined the effects of G. lucidum extract on proliferation of lung cancer. A female lung cancer cell line was treated with various concentrations of G. lucidum and monitored 1, 2 and 5 days post-treatment.  Overall, there was a dose-dependant, as well as time-dependent, decrease in cell proliferation.  Western blot analysis and reverse-transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) was used to examine anti-apoptotic and pro-apoptotic proteins.  Results suggest that the decrease in cell proliferation was due to signaled cell death, or apoptosis.  To better understand the active components responsible for cell death, triterpenoids and polysaccharides were isolated from G. lucidum and further examined. Previous studies with other cancer cell-lines were contradictory in regards to the active component.  Some suggest that the active component was a polysaccharide, while others pointed to a triterpenoid.  In this study, results suggest that the triterpenoid component of G. lucidum is the bioactive component.  Triterpenoids were analyzed by both high performance liquid chromatography and gas chromatography/mass spectrometry.  Detailed biochemical characterization of this ancient herbal remedy could hold tremendous promise for the treatment of lung cancer.


Zolj S, Pawley MD, Robinson DL, Lau JM.  2009.  Apoptotic activity induced in female lung cancer by bioactive triterpenoids components from Ganoderma lucidum.  Posters on the Hill event, Council on Undergraduate Research, Washington, D.C., May 4-5.

Zolj S, Robinson DL, Lau JM.  2009.  Isolation of triterpenoids from Reishi mushroom and their antiproliferative effects on human lung cancer.  Math, Engineering, Science Conference (MESCON), University of Evansville, Evansville, IN, April 4.

Zolj S, Pawley MD, Robinson DL, Huff MO, Lau JM.  2008.  Isolation of triterpenoids from reishi mushroom and their anti-cancer effects.  94th annual meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science, Lexington, KY, Nov. 1.  Awarded 2nd place in the Undergraduate Research Competition (Botany Section).  

Zolj S, Pawley MD, Robinson DL, Lau JM.  2008.    Antiproliferative properties of Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom) on H1793 female lung cancer cells.  Math, Engineering, Science Conference (MESCON), University of Evansville, Evansville, IN, April 19.

Zolj S, Pawley MD, Lau JM, Robinson DL.  2008.   The effects of reishi mushroom extracts on human lung cancer cells.  Butler University Undergraduate Research Conference, Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, April 18.

Zolj S, Kortyka SM, Robinson DL, Huff  MO, Lau JM.  2007.  Antiproliferative response of lung cancer cells to Ganoderma lucidum (reishi mushroom).  93rd annual meeting of the Kentucky Academy of Science, Louisville, KY, Nov. 8-10.  Awarded 1st place in the Undergraduate Research Poster Competition (Botany Section).