Originally printed in Whole Foods Magazine, May, 2001
Immune System Enhancer Helps Fight Cancer
Natural Killer Cell Enhancement And Anti-Cancer Effects Of Proprietary
Japanese Mushroom Extract, Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC®).
By Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH
When it comes to cancer prevention and treatment, your body's
first defense is your best. A type of white blood cell called
Natural Killer (NK) cells, may hold the key to the growth and
spread of cancers. First discovered in the 1980's, NK cells are
recognized as the immune system's front-line defense against cancer,
viruses and other pathogens. In healthy individuals, NK cells
routinely kill cancers while tumors are microscopic and before
they are detectable.
Measurements of NK cell cancer killing function are considered
primary indicators of clinical prognosis. Research shows that
NK cell cancer killing function is often low in those with a family
history of cancer, declines with age, corresponding with age-related
increases in the incidence of cancer, and is suppressed by cancer
surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, offering an explanation of
why cancer metastasis seem to spread more aggressively following
Stimulating NK cell function and supporting the immune system's
front-line defense has become one of the most promising avenues
of cancer treatment and prevention. Since 1986, there have been
29 published scientific studies showing that the use of a proprietary
natural compound called AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound),
can increase NK cell cancer killing function by several hundred
times. Made from a hybrid of mushrooms used in traditional Japanese
medicine, AHCC also is sold in the U.S. under the brand name ImmPower.
Among the benefits of using AHCC, as experienced by a majority
of cancer patients in several human clinical trials, is substantial
improvement in the functioning of macrophages, another type of
cytotoxic white blood cell that clears debris from cell damage,
directly attacks disease causing cells, and displays antigens
which stimulate antibody production by B-cell white blood cells.
AHCC also helps increase the production of specific cytokines,
immune system chemical messengers, that include:
- Interferon, which directly inhibits the replication of viruses
and other parasites and increases NK cell activity.
- Tumor Necrosis Factor (TNF), a group of proteins that help
destroy cancer cells by triggering apoptosis (programmed cell
- Interluekins IL-2 and IL-12, which suppress production of
tumor growth factor (TGF), stimulate still higher NK cell activity,
and accelerate the differentiation and proliferation of T-cells.
There is a bewildering choice of immune enhancing natural supplements
available. Unfortunately, the proof for most of these fall short
of true consumer use conditions.
For example, there are numerous mouse and rat studies. From this
animal research we are supposed to infer results in humans. In
other studies involving humans the researchers may use an intravenous
route of administration, whereas in the "real world,"
users will be expected to take it orally. In some instances, results
are from one researcher only, without independent confirmation. Therefore, one of the most important attributes of AHCC may be
the strength and extent of the research that demonstrate its beneficial
effects. It is supported by multiple studies reviewed for publication
in professional peer journals, involving hundreds of human patients,
all taking the product by mouth, and using many groups of scientific
investigators who independently verify and validate one another's
results. This gives doctors and patients a confident, reliable
profile of this supplement's mechanism of action, scope of effect
and safety profile.
There are many studies that show the benefits of Active Hexose
Correlated Compound, but the most impressive is also the most
recent, a study of patients with liver cancer presented at the
XXXIII Congress Of The European Society for Surgical Research. The study design tracked 151 consecutive patients following "curative"
surgery for primary liver cancer from February 1992 to September
1999. A treatment group consisting of 70 patients received 3 grams
of AHCC per day; the balance were a matched "control"
group that had surgery only. The object of the study was to see
how AHCC would effect the over-all survival of patients with liver
cancer and the pattern of reoccurrence.
The results were remarkable:
- Fewer patients reoccurred in the Active Hexose Correlated
Compound group, 49%, versus 67% in the control group.
- Average survival was 23 months longer among patients who took
Active Hexose Correlated Compound versus those who didn't.
- Overall survival was improved in the Active Hexose Correlated
Compound group. At the end of the study, 79% of the Active Hexose
Correlated Compound patients were still alive, versus only 51%
of those who didn't take it.
- No undesirable side effects were reported with the use of
How AHCC works
AHCC is not battling cancer or a cancerous tumor directly. It
is strengthening the immune system, so it can do what it is supposed
to do - destroy cancer cells! This helps explain why the compound
is effective for more than just liver cancer. A 1995 study published
in the International Journal of Immunology showed that AHCC's
beneficial effects are not cancer type specific. Three prostate,
three ovarian, two multiple myeloma and three breast cancer patients
had their tumor associated antigen (TAA) markers measured before,
during and after taking AHCC.
The results speak for themselves: There was a significant decline
in the level of PSA in all prostate cancer patients; in addition,
significant decline in CA 125 levels was observed for 2/3 ovarian
cancer patients and one of two multiple myeloma patients had significant
reduction in BJP level (the second had a slight decrease). The
level of CA 15-3 in two breast cancer patients did not change
significantly, although the CEA in one of the breast patients
did see significant reduction.
Other important data to come from this trial includes the Natural
Killer Cell activity level. Nine of the eleven patients had dramatic
increase in the NK cell activity level as well as their T and
B cell activity level. In other words, the patient's reduction
in tumor markers correlated with the increases in strength of
their immune systems, validating the notion that a strong immune
system can help fight cancer. It is worth repeating that none
of the patients participating in any of the clinical trials, where
Active Hexose Correlated Compound was administered at the therapeutic
dose, observed any side effects or toxicity. Remember, there are
many chemicals available that have the ability to shrink tumors,
but at what price? There is a big "risk-reward relationship"
in cancer therapy and finding nontoxic compounds like AHCC, which
carries virtually no risk, with the possibility of a great reward,
is a long sought goal of cancer research.
Most cancer patients use natural therapies to complement conventional
anti-cancer therapies, so a study published in 1998 in the prestigious
journal Anti-Cancer Drugs showing how AHCC worked in combination
with a widely used form of oral chemotherapy is particularly important. This study demonstrated that AHCC enhanced the beneficial effects
of the chemotherapy, while reducing detrimental side effects. This study's findings showed that AHCC combined with UFT (an oral
form of 5-FU): .
- Restored Natural Killer Cell activity inhibited by chemotherapy. (Chemotherapy inhibited NK Cell activity by nearly 75% when
- Decreased primary tumors by 20% more than chemotherapy alone.
- Inhibited the spread of cancer metastasis to other parts of
the body by nearly 30% as compared to chemotherapy alone.
- Increased macrophage activity as compared to chemotherapy
alone, sometimes by as much as 96%.
The Anti-Cancer Drugs study concluded, "Taken together,
the combination of Active Hexose Correlated Compound, plus chemotherapy,
brought about good therapeutic effects, not only on primary tumor
growth, but also on reducing metastasis and these effects were
mediated by host immunity which was restored or activated by Active
Hexose Correlated Compound."
The Japanese have traditionally used natural compounds from mushrooms
to support the immune system. The makers of AHCC, Amino-Up Chemical
Company of Sapporo, Japan, have improved on tradition by creating
a proprietary hybrid of Shiitake and other types of medicinal
mushrooms with historically proven health benefits. An article
published in Bio Industry, Volume 10, September '93, explains
how AHCC is obtained. The proprietary hybrid is cultivated under
laboratory conditions in a liquid medium, rather than in the soil
or wood growth medium that is natural to these fungi. This material
is harvested and enzymatically modified through a fermentation
process to break the large polysaccharides normally found in medicinal
mushrooms, in the 100,000 dalton range, down to a more bioactive
size. Technically speaking, the active component is an oligosaccharide,
with a molecular weight of 5,000 daltons - a relatively small
molecule, easily absorbed in the gut with an alpha, 1- 4 glucan
The safety of this new compound has been well established, both
by itself and in combination with other therapies. In fact, AHCC
is used in more than 700 hospitals worldwide in their treatment
of cancer patients. There is even an AHCC research association
that meets every year in Sapporo. This group records the details
of hundreds of case histories and small studies that are reviewed
and published annually. Even after years of use, this natural
extract caused no toxicity, adverse reactions, or unwanted side
effects. Furthermore, the effects of Active Hexose Correlated
Compound don't appear to decline with extended use. Patients have
been followed for up to 8 years, and after discontinuing use,
the immune system doesn't "crash" from exhaustion or
The dosages used in the previously mentioned clinical studies,
as well as in earlier research, fall into two categories: the
first is preventative and the second is therapeutic or as a treatment.
1. As a form of prevention, take one gram per day or one 500
mg pill in the morning and one at night. This dose will help increase
your natural killer cell activity level and help build-up your
immune system for general health and well being. There are actually
several studies that show that patients who use AHCC will go on
to develop fewer cancers.
2. For therapeutic use, take 3 grams per day (two pills in the
morning, two in the afternoon and two at night) for three weeks
and then one gram per day there after (one in the morning and
one at night).
Taking a higher dose in the beginning, or for the first three
weeks, NK cell activity will build up quicker or reach its peak
at a faster rate. Maintenance of that increased activity level
will be achieved by taking one gram per day.
For more information and copies of the research, please contact
American BioSciences, Inc., makers of the ImmPower
brand of AHCC®, phone 888-884-7770, Blauvelt,
Preventive Effect of Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC)
on the Recurrence of Postoperative Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients.
XXXIIIrd Congress of the European Society for Surgical Research,
1998 p74 Y. Matsui, Y. Kawaguchi, M. Nakagawa, A Hon-Kwon, Y.
Kamiyama, K. Kosuna.
Immunomodulatory and AntiCancer Effects of Active HemiCellulose
Compound (AHCC), International Journal of Immunotherapy XI (1)
23-28 (1995) Ghoneum M., Wimbley M., Salem F., McKlain A., Attallah
N., Gill G.
NK-Immunomodulation by Active Hemicellulose Compound in 17 Cancer
Patients, Society of Natural Immunity, Taormina, Italy May 25-28,
1994 p56 Mamdooh Ghoneum, Ph.D.
Enhancement of Human NK Cell Activity In-Vivo by Active Hemicellulose
Compound (AHCC)*, Abstract of 7th Annual Conference on Clinical
Immunology, November 13-15, 1992 Ghoneum M., et al.
Combination therapy of active hexose correlated compound plus
UFT significantly reduces the metastasis of rat mammary adenocarcinoma,
Anti- Cancer Drugs 1998. Vol 9. pp. 343-350 Kazuhiro Matsushita,
Yasuhiro Kuramitsu, Youichi Ohiro, Manabu Obara, Masanobu Kobayashi,
Yong-Qing Li and Masuo Hosokawa
Protective Effects of AHCC on Carbon Tetrachloride Induced Liver
Injury in Mice*, Natural Medicine, 51, 310-315, 1997 Sun B., Wakame
K., Mukota T., Toyoshima A., Kanazawa T., Kosuna K
Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) Protects Against Cytosine
Arabinoside Induced Alopecia in the Newborn Rat Animal Model,
Japanese Journal of Cancer Research 89, p2405 Mukoda T., Sun B.,
The Development and Application Of Active Hemicellulose Compound
(AHCC, Bio Industry September 1993 Volume 10 Ken-ichi Kosuna
Fred Pescatore, MD, MPH, is a medical director of the Centers
for Integrative and Complementary Medicine, NY, NY
The information contained in this article is not offered as
cures, prescriptions, diagnoses, or a means of diagnosis to different
conditions. It should be viewed as an objective compilation of
existing data and research. The author assumes no responsibility
in the correct or incorrect use of this information and no attempt
should be made to use any of this information without the approval
and guidance of your doctor.