- Active Hexose Correlated Compound
For Patients & Caregivers
AHCC has 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. One study showed that it could enhance the activity of natural killer cells (a type of immune cell) in the test tube. Animal studies suggest that AHCC has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, and can improve the response of the immune system in mice with chemotherapy-weakened immune systems. In humans, AHCC has been shown to improve liver function in patients with hepatocellular carcinoma and cirrhosis and reduce the levels of certain tumor markers in the blood.
To prevent and treat cancer
Laboratory studies show some anti-cancer activity, but these results are not especially strong. One human study supported the use of AHCC in patients undergoing surgical resection of hepatocellular carcinoma, but this study had design flaws and much more research is needed.
Another study found AHCC to be an ineffective treatment for early stage prostate cancer.
For Healthcare Professionals
A proprietary extract prepared from co-cultured mycelia of several species of Basidiomycete mushrooms, including shiitake (Lentinus edodes), active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) is extracted using hot water following an enzyme pretreatment, but the specific mushroom source and procedural details have not been fully disclosed. Patients use AHCC to prevent and treat cancer.
Animal studies suggest that AHCC has antioxidant effects and may protect against many disorders that are induced by oxidative stress (1); enhances resistance against bacterial (2)(3) and viral infections (4); and due to its anti-inflammatory effects, is effective against colitis (20).
A study of healthy subjects aged 50 years and older suggests that AHCC improves T-cell immune responses via increased production of interferon-l and tumor necrosis factor-alpha for up to 30 days after treatment (5). In healthy humans, AHCC increased dendritic cell number and function (6) and short-term supplementation with AHCC was shown to improve the antibody response to influenza vaccine (21).
In vitro and animal studies show that AHCC exhibits anticancer activities (7)(8). In cisplatin-treated mice, AHCC increased its anti-tumor effects while reducing side effects (9)(3); and showed synergistic effects with gemcitabine in pancreatic cancer cells (22).
A prospective cohort study suggested that AHCC improves prognosis after curative resection of hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) (10). AHCC may also reduce chemotherapy-associated adverse effects in patients with advanced cancer (23). However, an open-label multicenter study of patients with early stage prostate cancer found that AHCC was ineffective in reducing patient prostrate-specific antigen levels by 50% or more (11). More studies are needed.
AHCC glucans are low molecular weight (~5 KDa) polysaccharides with alpha-1,3 linkages. Both properties are unusual for this class of mushroom glucans with reported immunomodulatory properties (7). A proposed mechanism is by orchestrating immune response and the maintenance of immune homeostasis in part by priming the TLR-2 and TLR-4 (toll-like receptors) gate at the intestinal epithelium (24). AHCC has been shown to enhance natural killer (NK) cell activity in vitro, induces endogenous IL-12 in mice (8), and improves murine response to influenza infection (15). One animal study suggested that AHCC has antioxidant effects and may protect against disorders induced by oxidative stress (1). Other studies have shown AHCC to increase resistance to bacterial infection (3) by increasing inflammatory cytokine and chemokine expression as well as lymphocytes (13). AHCC also enhanced murine resistance to West Nile virus by improving T-cell response (16).
In chemotherapy-induced granulocytopenic mice, AHCC improved immune response to Candida albicans (2). AHCC also alleviated the side effects induced by several anticancer drugs in rodents but the molecular mechanism for this activity needs to be defined (17)(18). In healthy adults aged 50 years or more, AHCC enhanced CD4(+) and CD8(+) T cell immune responses (19). In patients with hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) and cirrhosis, AHCC has shown beneficial effects on liver function (10) possibly by regulating nitric oxide (NO) production (14).