Originally printed in Whole Foods Magazine, May, 2002
Winning The Battle Against Cancer Therapy
Japanese mushroom extract ImmPower AHCC®
protects and restores immune function
BY ALLEN E. SOSIN, MD
Individual victory in the war against cancer often means winning
the battle against therapy-induced side effects, particularly
immune suppression. Surgery, radiation and chemotherapies weaken
immune system defenses leaving many patients vulnerable to opportunistic
infections, contributing to mental and physical fatigue and allowing
for post-therapy cancer reoccurrences and/or metastasis. Cancer
experts used to accept therapy side effects as inevitable, but
research in the growing field of "Complementary Therapies"
has shown that certain natural and nutritional supplements can
limit their severity and duration. One particularly beneficial
supplement is the Japanese mushroom extract AHCC, which medical
research shows can reduce nausea, vomiting, pain, appetite suppression,
liver damage, hair loss and immune suppression, resulting in improved
quality of life and overall survival.
AHCC (Active Hexose Correlated Compound) was developed by the
Amino-Up Chemical Company of Sapporo, Japan. It is made from
a proprietary hybrid of Shiitake and other medicinal mushrooms
grown with rice bran in a liquid medium (a controlled environment
like hydroponic gardening for mushrooms), that is then fermented
to extract a unique, low molecular weight compound, not common
to medicinal mushrooms. The active ingredient in AHCC has been
identified as a 5,000 dalton weight molecule with an alpha-glucan
structure (a Dalton is a unit of molecular weight equal to one
Carbon atom). In contrast, the immune enhancing compounds of most
mushrooms are identified as 100,000 to 1,000,000 dalton weight, beta-glucan molecules. AHCC has been the subject of more than
29 published studies since 1986 and is used in over 700 hospitals
in Japan, so there is a great deal of scientific evidence that
AHCC not only helps to prevent the side effects of chemotherapy, but enhances its primary effectiveness as well.
In terms of side effects, several animal studies have laid the
ground work for research in humans. A study published in the Proceedings
of the American Association For Cancer Research in March of 1999
showed that AHCC was able to relieve the side effects of several
standard chemotherapy drugs. Mice treated with fluorouracil (5-FU), cyclophos-phamide (CY) or both daily showed decreases in weight, blood count and bone marrow that were "significantly restored"
by co-administration with AHCC. Mice treated with Mercapto-purine
(6-MP), and methotrexate (MTX) showed decreased body weight, serum
albumin, and liver functions, which were significantly improved
when AHCC was administered together with the chemotherapic agents. "Severe" (50% to 100%) hair loss or alopecia caused
by cytosine arabinoside (Ara-C) was reduced to "slight"
when AHCC was taken simultaneously.
Damage to liver function is responsible for many of the systemic
side effects of chemotherapy. A study in mice, which used carbon
tetrachloride as a model for drug induced liver injury, showed
that co-treatment with AHCC prevented declines in liver function, enhancing metabolism, preventing the buildup of carcinogenic compounds
and preventing the development of hormone disorders that often
accompany liver failure. AHCC showed an antioxidant like protection
against free radicals as measured in liver enzyme profiles, protecting
the liver itself and the body as a whole.
Hair loss, although often temporary, is an extremely distressing
and common consequence of cancer therapy. The protective effects
of AHCC in this regard was confirmed in another study where 5
out of 7 rats treated with the chemotherapy cytosine arabinoside
(Ara-C) showed severe and 2 of 7 moderate alopecia. Mice given
AHCC along with chemotherapy were protected. Microscopic analysis
showed severe loss of hair follicles in controlled animals, and
slight loss in the AHCC group.
The ability of AHCC to enhance the effectiveness of chemotherapy
was demonstrated in a study where rats were implanted with a cell
line of spontaneous mammary adenocarcinoma. Three groups were
observed for 38 days, a control group, a group treated with UFT, an oral form of the chemotherapy drug fluorouracil, and a UFT
plus AHCC treatment group. Tumor growth was greatest in the control
group. There was a slight, but significant enhancement of tumor
suppression in the AHCC group compared to the UFT group.
The greatest difference was found in the growth of distant metastases, which were inhibited by the treatment with AHCC plus UFT, but
enhanced by UFT alone. An explanation for this is found in AHCC's
ability to prevent the suppression of immune function that occurs
with chemotherapy. Distant metastases often occur when after
primary tumors have been reduced or eradicated by therapies that
often eliminate the host immune defense, allowing microscopic
tumor to grow freely. UFT-only treated mice had suppressed Natural
Killer (NK) cell function. AHCC restored and enhanced NK cell
as well as macrophage function, and the production of anti-cancer
In addition to an increased susceptibility to cancer metastasis, immune system suppression can also lead to life threatening opportunistic
infections. AHCC helped prevent these complications and enhance
survival in a study with mice whose white blood counts were suppressed
with the chemotherapy cyclophosphamide, and exposed to Candida
albicans, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Staphylococcus aureus.
Validation of animal research with AHCC is found in controlled
studies and case reports with human patients. AHCC is widely
used in Japanese hospitals, and since 1986 doctors have been meeting
at the annual meeting of the AHCC Research Association to present
the results of their clinical experience demonstrating improved
appetite, reduced vomiting and pain and other improvements in
the quality of life of patients under going chemo, radiation and
surgery for cancer. In a study that extended from 1992 to 1999, 70 patients with pathologically confirmed liver cancer took AHCC
orally (3grams per day) following surgery showed overall survival
benefits. A clinically balanced control group of 82 liver cancer
patients were followed who had surgery only. As of September
1999, 34 (49%) of the patients in the AHCC group had recurrences, versus 55 (67%) of the control group. More significantly, AHCC
increased the 50% survival rate from 45 months to 68 months.
AHCC is now available in the U.S. and is sold as ImmPower
AHCC by American BioSciences, Inc. . Please contact them for further
information and research, American BioSciences, Inc. 560 Bradley
Parkway, Blauvelt, NY 10913 ph: 888-884-7770, www.americanbiosciences.com.
AHCC is a registered trademark of the Amino-Up Chemical Company, Sapporo, Japan.
Reduction of the Side Effects of Anticancer Drugs by Active
Hexose Correlated Compound, 90th Proceedings of the American
Association for Cancer Research B. Sun et al. (Amino Up Chemical
Co. , Ltd. ) 1999.
Protective Effects of AHCC on Carbon Tetrachloride Induced
Liver Injury in Mice, Natural Medicines 51(4), 310-315 (1997)
B. Sun et al. (Amino Up Chemical Co. , Ltd. ) 1998.
Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC) Protects Against
Cytosine Arabinoside Induced Alopecia in the Newborn Rat Animal
Model, 57th Annual Meeting of the Japanese Cancer Association,
T. Mukoda et al. (AminoUp Chemical Co. , Ltd. ) 1998.
Combination Therapy of Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC)
Plus UFT Significantly Reduces the Metastasis of Rat Mammary Carcinoma,
Anti-Cancer Drugs 1998, 9, 343-350 K. Matsushita, et al. ,
(University School of Medicine, Laboratory of Pathology, Cancer
Institute, Hokkaido) 1998.
Prophylatic Efficacy of a Basidiomycetes Preparation AHCC
against Lethal Opportunistic Infection in Mice, Yakugaku Zassi
2000, 120, 749-753H. Ishibashi et al. (Department of Microbiology
and Immunology, Teikyo University School of Medicine).
Improving Effect of Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC)
on the Prognosis of Postoperative Hepatocellular Carcinoma Patients,
34th Congress of the European Society for Surgical Research (Bern, Switzerland), Y. Kamiyama et al. (First Department of Surgery, Kansai Medical University) 1999.
About the author:
Allen E. Sosin, MD
Institute For Progressive Medicine
Internal Medicine and Wellness
16100 Sand Canyon Avenue, Ste 240
Irvine, CA 92618
Dr. Sosin is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Nephrology, whose medical practice combines traditional and alternative methods. He is the author of the books, ALPHA LIPOIC ACID: NATURE'S ULTIMATE
ANTIOXIDANT, and THE DOCTOR'S GUIDE TO DIABETES AND YOUR CHILD.