AHCC and Cancer: Promoting Immune Response


I'm excited to share some compelling insights on Active Hexose Correlated Compound (AHCC), a remarkable fermented mushroom extract derived from shiitake mushrooms, known for its potential to boost immune functions and enhance cancer treatment outcomes. Ongoing research and clinical studies highlight AHCC's significant effects on natural killer cell activity and its promising role in various cancers, including liver and prostate cancer which is one of the reasons why we offer AHCC as a nutraceutical from XY Wellness. Keep reading to get the details on AHCC's impact on immune health and its potential synergistic use with standard cancer therapies. 


Warm regards,


Dr. Geo
Co-Founder and Medical Director




Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) is a fermented mushroom extract derived from shiitake mushrooms that is known to provide immune support. Available data suggest that AHCC supplementation affects immune outcomes and immune cell populations—especially natural killer cell activity. Additional human studies are needed, as well as studies to explore the mechanistic rationale for these reported effects.


Supplementation studies with AHCC have demonstrated positive effects on immune function in human and animal models, including decreased tumor formation and improved immune function, especially the essential enhancement of the important anti-cancer immune cells, natural killer (NK). 



AHCC and Human Cancers


From a clinical standpoint, applying AHCC supplementation, or any integrative therapy, must be considered in the context of standard medical care for cancer patients. The human clinical effects of AHCC supplementation were first explored in malignancy, although the quality of studies varies greatly from prospective, placebo-controlled to open-label studies and case reports.


Overall, AHCC has been suggested to improve prognosis and quality of life in various cancers and elicit potentially positive changes in cytokine production and lymphocyte populations—most notably increased NK cell activity. (1)


Accordingly, AHCC has generally been administered as an adjunct with surgery, chemotherapy, or radiation. Two studies in patients with liver cancer have shown benefits from consuming AHCC. In one trial, AHCC alone was administered in addition to basic supportive care in advanced liver cancer patients who were not candidates for surgery or chemotherapy, showing a dose of 6 g/day was associated with improved prognosis and quality of life. (2)


The other looked at nearly 270 liver cancer patients after resectioning a liver tumor. The AHCC group had a significantly longer no-recurrence period and an increased overall survival rate compared to the control group. (3)



AHCC and Immune Outcomes in Healthy Populations


Infiltration of immune cells into a tumor microenvironment is essential for any cancer program. Any lifestyle, medical approach or botanical that can improve immune function, especially Natural Killer (NK) cells. NK cells are a relatively small percentage, approximately 5–10%, of circulating immune cells, but as the first-line defense to eliminate pathogen-infected or abnormal cells, but also produce critical cytokines.


Cytokines are a group of small proteins or signaling molecules that play a crucial role in cell-to-cell communication within the immune system and various other biological processes. In the context of cancer, cytokines can stimulate the proliferation and activation of other immune cells, leading to further antitumor activity. NK cells are not only critical for cancer prevention but also control tumor progression and metastasis. (4)


Healthy volunteers were studied, and researchers noted an increase of important immune functions, including an increase in dendritic cell (DC) number and position. The same study reported no changes in T cell proliferation in response to mitogen stimulation, cytokine production, or NK cell activity. (5)


In other studies, using the gold-standard methodology of scientific research, a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, subjects were administered AHCC (3 g/day) or placebo in conjunction with the influenza vaccine and for two weeks post-vaccination. Blood analyses at two weeks post-vaccination demonstrated increases in many other critical immune cells, including total T cell, CD8+ T cell, and NK cell populations. The effects of AHCC on immune cell phenotypes were most pronounced following vaccination in those subjects over 60 years of age. These preliminary data suggest that short-term AHCC supplementation may promote a protective response to influenza vaccination. (6)



The Benefits of AHCC in Prostate cancer


Studies specific to the application of AHCC on prostate cancer are scarce, but the primary benefit of its use with these patients is its immunological function, especially the production of NK cells which can help patients specific with prostate cancer.


Abundant circulating NK cells have been found to be significantly lower in prostate cancer patients than in healthy people, and further reduced in metastatic compared to localized, less aggressive disease. (7) Also, men with metastatic prostate cancer with increased circulating NK cell numbers showed improved overall survival and longer time to become castrate resistant compared to the control group. (8)


One case report suggests benefits for patients with prostate cancer. A published report discusses a 66-year-old man with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) who chose to take AHCC as he was running out of medical options. Within six months, the patient discovered a significant drop in PSA and stabilization of bone metastasis based on imaging. This case hypothesizes that AHCC may have potential activity against CRPC. (9)



AHCC and Cytochrome P450 enzymes 


Cytochrome P450 enzymes (CYP450) are a group of more than 50 enzymes involved in detoxifying chemicals from the body, including the metabolism of pharmaceutical drugs like chemotherapeutic medications. The potential drug-herb interaction is why many oncologists discourage using herbals in chemotherapy patients. 


Numerous CYP450 enzymes were analyzed to determine the possibility of drug interactions with AHCC, and there seems to be no inhibition of CYP450; Therefore, AHCC is likely safe to administer with most chemotherapy agents that are not metabolized by specific CYP450 pathways. Further, according to animal studies, there may be a positive effect of AHCC on the reduction of chemotherapy side effects in tumor-bearing. (10)



Conclusion and Final Thoughts


My clinical experience, combined with the available scientific literature suggests that AHCC is an immune-modulating compound with consistent effects on NK cell activity induced by either an active tumor or a viral infection. NK cells are now known to act as potent with both antitumor benefits and antimicrobial and antiviral activities. Further, NK cell activity appears to be highly influenced by improved nutrition. (11) Because AHCC supports natural immunity by stimulating NK cell production, this Japanese mushroom, along with exercise, diet, and other lifestyle practices, is an attractive therapeutic target for a natural medicine approach. 


Dosage: As a dietary supplement take 2 – 4 capsules a day, in divided doses, away from food, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.



  1. Ghoneum M, Wimbley M, Salem F, McKlain A, Attallah N, Gill G. Immunomodulatory and anticancer effects of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC). Int J Immunother. 1995; 11:23-28.
  2. Cowawintaweewat S, Manoromana S, Sriplung H, et al. Prognostic improvement of patients with advanced liver cancer after active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) treatment. Asian Pac J Allergy Immunol. 2006;24:34-45.
  3. Matsui Y, Uhara J, Satoi S, et al. Improved prognosis of postoperative hepatocellular carcinoma patients when treated with functional foods: a prospective cohort study. J Hepatology. 2002;37:78-86.
  4. Lopez-Soto A, Gonzalez S, Smyth MJ, Galluzzi L Control of metastasis by NK cellsCancer Cell. 2017;32(2):135–54. 
  5. Terakawa N, Matsui Y, Satoi S, et al. Immunological effect of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) in healthy volunteers. Nutr Cancer. 2008;60:643-651
  6. Gardner EM, Beli E, Kempf LP, Hajime F. Active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) improves immune cell populations after influenze vaccination of healthy subjects. FASEB J. 2010;24:327.
  7. Liu G, Lu S, Wang X, Page ST, Higano CS, Plymate SR, et al.. Perturbation of NK cell peripheral homeostasis accelerates prostate carcinoma metastasis. J Clin Invest (2013) 123:4410–22. doi:  10.1172/JCI69369 
  8. Lin SJ, Chou FJ, Li L, Lin CY, Yeh S, Chang C. Natural killer cells suppress enzalutamide resistance and cell invasion in the castration resistant prostate cancer via targeting the androgen receptor splicing variant 7 (ARv7)Cancer Lett (2017) 398:62–9. doi:  10.1016/j.canlet.2017.03.035
  9. Turner J, Chaudhary U. Dramatic prostate-specific antigen response with activated hemicellulose compound in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. Anticancer Drugs. 2009 Mar;20(3):215-6. doi: 10.1097/CAD.0b013e3283163c26. PMID: 19104437.
  10.   Hirose A, Sato E, Fujii H, et al. The influence of active hexose correlated compound (AHCC) on cisplatin-evoked chemotherapeutic and side effects in tumor-bearing mice. Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 2007;222:152-158.
  11.   Lesourd B. Nutrition: a major factor influencing immunity in the elderly. J Nutr Health Aging. 2004;8:28-37.






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