- Active Hexose Correlated Compound
For Patients & Caregivers
How It Works
AHCC appears to have immunomodulatory and anticancer effects, but large human studies are lacking.
Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) is an extract of mushrooms from the Basidiomycete class, including shiitake mushrooms. This product contains polysaccharides called glucans, which scientists think are responsible for its biological activity.
Lab studies suggest AHCC may enhance the activity of some types of immune cells. Animal studies suggest that AHCC has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and may improve immune system response in mice with chemotherapy-weakened immune systems. In a few human studies, AHCC improved liver function in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis, and reduced blood levels of some tumor markers.
Do Not Take If
- You are taking drugs that are substrates of Cytochrome P450 2D6: Lab studies suggest AHCC may make these drugs less effective. Clinical significance is not known.
- You are taking Aromatase inhibitors: AHCC induces aromatase and may reduce activity of aromatase inhibitor drugs such as letrozole. Clinical relevance has not been determined.
For Healthcare Professionals
Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) is a nutritional product prepared from the mycelia of shiitake (Lentinus edodes) mushrooms. Like other mushrooms, it contains a mixture of polysaccharides, amino acids, and minerals. AHCC is also rich in alpha-1,4-glucan oligosaccharides, which are believed to enhance its biologic activities (5). Patients use AHCC to prevent and treat cancer.
Animal models suggest that AHCC has antioxidant effects and may protect against disorders induced by oxidative stress (1). It also enhanced resistance against bacterial (3) and viral infections (4), and has anti-inflammatory effects against colitis (20). In healthy human subjects, AHCC improved T-cell immune responses (19); increased dendritic cell number and function (6); improved antibody response to influenza vaccine (21); and when used with Bifidobacterium longum, may modulate T regulatory and dendritic cell phenotypes to favor anti-inflammatory responses after antibiotic use (30).
Preclinical findings suggest anticancer effects (7) (8) (29). In cisplatin-treated mice, AHCC increased antitumor activity while reducing side effects (9), and showed synergistic effects with gemcitabine in pancreatic cancer cells (22). In humans, findings from a prospective cohort study suggest AHCC improved prognosis after curative resection of hepatocellular carcinoma (10). AHCC may also reduce chemotherapy-associated adverse effects in patients with advanced cancer (23), and in those with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) (25). However, an open-label multicenter study of patients with early stage prostate cancer found AHCC was ineffective in reducing prostate-specific antigen levels by 50% or more (11). Further research is needed.
Mechanism of Action
AHCC glucans are low molecular weight (~5 KDa) polysaccharides with alpha-1,3 linkages. Both properties are unusual for this class of compounds with reported immunomodulatory properties (7). One of the proposed mechanisms includes orchestrating immune response and maintaining immune homeostasis in part by priming TLR-2 and TLR-4 (toll-like receptor) gates at the intestinal epithelium (24). AHCC enhanced natural killer (NK) cell activity to induce endogenous IL-12 in mice (8), and improve murine response to influenza infection (15). In other animal studies, AHCC protected against disorders induced by oxidative stress (1), increased resistance to West Nile virus by improving T-cell response (16), and increased resistance to bacterial infection (3), perhaps by increasing inflammatory cytokine and chemokine expression as well as lymphocytes (13).
Studies in healthy older humans suggest AHCC may enhance CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell immune response (19). In patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis, beneficial effects on liver function (10) may occur via regulation of nitric oxide production (14).
In tumor tissue, AHCC enhanced antitumor effects of 5-fluorouracil by enhancing apoptosis, upregulating expression of BCl-2 associated X protein, and downregulating B cell lymphoma 2 (26). Proposed mechanisms for overcoming drug resistance in cancer cells include downregulation of Heat Shock Factor 1, which induces heat shock protein HSP27, known to be involved in gemcitabine resistance in pancreatic cancer cells (27).
Cytochrome P450 substrates: AHCC induces CYP450 2D6, which may decrease the activity of substrate drugs such as doxorubicin or ondansetron. Clinical significance is not known (12).
Aromatase inhibitors: AHCC induces aromatase and may reduce activity of aromatase inhibitor drugs such as letrozole. Clinical relevance has not been determined (28).