Currently, there is considerable interest in nutritional interventions and natural compounds for targeting key deregulated niche signaling pathways in tumor development.
For example, a dietary intervention showed that a few months of Mediterranean diet was sufficient to positively change the metabolic/endocrine characteristics of breast cancer survivors.1
More specifically, the naturally derived product Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC®) has been reported to exert immunoprotective effects against many types of cancer, including liver, breast, colon and prostate.2–5
It is thought that the active components in AHCC are its acylated α-1,4 glucans.6
HOW IS AHCC MADE?
Active Hexose-Correlated Compound (AHCC) is a mushroom extract derived from several species of Basidiomycetes mushrooms including Shiitake (Lentinus edodes) and Shimeji (Lyophyllum shimeji) .
AHCC is made in Japan by Amino Up Chemical Co. Ltd. AHCC is a standardized extract of cultured Lentinula edodes mycelia and is rich in alpha-glucans.
AHCC is used as a nutritional supplement in Japan and has been shown to be effective against hyperlipidemia, obesity and cancer .
Further, it has been shown to increase the activity of immune cells in clinical studies7,8 and enhance the antitumor effects of certain chemotherapy drugs in5 and have anti-inflammatory effects in animal studies.9
The pathological growth of tumors is maintained and driven by a small subpopulation of “stem-like” tumor cells, ensuring resistance to both chemotherapy and radiation.10–14
This highly tumorigenic subset of breast cancer cells display increased ability to self-renew, generate breast cancer heterogeneity, and are designated Cancer Stem Cells (CSCs).15
Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) has been shown to have many immunostimulatory and anti-cancer activities in mice and in humans.
As a natural product, AHCC has potential to create safer adjuvant therapies in cancer patients.
This is how AHCC is made:
- The first ingredient of AHCC is shitake mushrooms. These mushrooms have a rich history of healing powers.
- The second ingredient is several hybrids from the Basidiomycota phylum of fungi.
- AHCC is made using only the mycelia, the hair like root structures of these mushrooms located below the ground.
- The various mycelia are cultured in rice bran extract until they form a colony. It’s important to note that rice bran extract also has antiviral and immune system enhancing qualities.
- This colony is cultured for an additional 45 to 60 days.
- This colony then undergoes a series of patented steps that involve cultivation, decomposition by enzymes, sterilization, concentration, and freeze-drying.
This entire process was developed at the University of Tokyo Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences by Dr. Toshihiko Okamoto, along with the researchers at Amino Up Chemical Co. Ltd.
The final result of this carefully computer-monitored manufacturing process is the functional food supplement AHCC.
It is very useful to watch this video that provides an overview of the AHCC production process.
AHCC® is potentially effective in stress management and may be useful in the treatment of depression.
We evaluated the effects of AHCC® on subjects under different kinds of stress and at rest.
Physical stress was imposed using an active standing test, known as Schellong’s test. Sympathetic nervous activity in the standing position was significantly greater in AHCC®-treated subjects than in a placebo group.
In contrast, AHCC® significantly increased parasympathetic nervous activity at rest. Under mental stress, AHCC® increased sympathetic nervous activity, with no difference in the parasympathetic nervous system.
In subjects with chronic mental stress, self-reported “initiation and maintenance of sleep” was significantly greater in the AHCC®-intake period than in the placebo intake period, and natural killer cell activity also increased after AHCC® intake, suggesting a possible mechanism of action of AHCC®.
Preliminary results from one of the presentations made at the recent Society for Integrative Oncology 15th international conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, showed that that daily supplementation with AHCC® could support the host immune system to eradicate Human Papilloma Virus (HPV) infection in women with HPV-positive PAP smears.
Early results of the ongoing clinical trial evaluating AHCC® for treatment of HPV were presented by principle investigator Dr. Judith A. Smith of McGovern Medical at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).
The randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study is following 50 women for up to 12 months, with one group taking six capsules, each containing 500 milligrams of AHCC® (n=25), and a second cohort receiving placebo (n=25).
At the time of the preliminary analysis, 46 patients had completed the study.
The results showed that at six months, 58.8 percent of the patients taking AHCC® showed no signs of the infection.
In the placebo group, one patient showed no signs of the infection at three, six,9 and 12 months of study. AHCC® was well-tolerated in patients who received it.
“There currently is no standard of care for persistent, high-risk HPV infections so we have been taking a systematic approach over the past 10 years with our research. We have studied AHCC® from bench studies and two pilot studies that supported rationale for our current ongoing phase II clinical trial to evaluate AHCC® supplementation to support the host immune system to clear persistent HPV infections” Smith said about her research.
“The goal of our research is to offer women a safe, clinically evaluated approach to clear persistent HPV infections.”
Previous clinical research on AHCC® has focused on oncology and hepatology.
One 10-year prospective cohort study published in the Journal of Hepatology followed 269 patients with advanced hypercellular carcinoma showed that those taking AHCC® had statistically significant lower tumor recurrence rates (34.5% vs 66.1%) and longer 5-year survival rates (79.6% vs 53.2%).
Multiple other studies have demonstrated that AHCC® improves immune parameters and quality of life of cancer patients.
In the field of hepatology, AHCC® has been shown to reduce viral loads in patients with hepatitis C and to help subjects with non-viral liver disease.
Breast Cancer VS AHCC®
Breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed form of cancer and the second leading cause of death in Western women, with 240 190 new cases diagnosed in 2015.1
More than half of new breast cancer cases occur in women older than 65 years.4
Hence, it is critical not to interfere with the activity of these agents in breast cancer patients who have already achieved initial clinical complete response.
Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC; Amino Up Chemical Co, Ltd, Sapporo, Japan) is a fermented extract prepared from mycelia of a Basidiomycete mushroom (Lentinula edodes) that has been proposed to have numerous health benefits mediated by both immunomodulatory and antitumor effects.8–11
The primary active component is acylated α-glucan and contains <0.2% β-glucans, which have a molecular weight of 10 000 to 500 000, with the lower molecular weight α-glucans having much better oral absorption.