Medical science has been able to discover the source of treatments for some of the most serious diseases directly from nature, as opposed to synthesizing them in a lab. One of these is Advanced Hexose Correlation Compound (AHCC), a dietary supplement isolated from the mycelia of Shiitake — a member of the mushroom family. The immunostimulatory properties of AHCC have been recently tested against Human Papillomavirus (HPV). The results of this study, led by Dr. Judith A. Smith, PharmD, at the University of Texas Health Science Center (UTHealth) Medical School at Houston, were presented at the Society of Gynecological Oncology 45th Annual Meeting on Women’s Cancer in Tampa, Florida.
HPV is one of the most common sexually transmitted viruses, with around 79 million Americans cases alone. Approximately 14 million new cases get registered every year, with 70% of sexually active people contracting the disease at some point in their lives. HPV is responsible for cervical cancer in almost 10,000 women every year, having an incidence of more than 99%. Other clinical manifestations include vaginal cancer, oropharyngeal cancer, anal and penile cancer, vulvular cancer, and genital warts.
The immuno-stimulatory properties of AHCC were first tested by the researchers at Tokyo University. AHCC has ever since, been believed to combat infections and tumor growth by activating the dendrtitic cells, Natural Killer (NK) cells and cytokines — all of which form the first lines of the body’s defense mechanism. Dendritic cells are primarily responsible in processing of antigens in order to be acted upon by cytokines and other immune cells (Interleukins, Interferon gamma, etc.).
The in-vitro phase of the study involved treatment of cervical cancer cells with AHCC and monitoring their effects every 24 hours, for 72 hours. This study was then moved to mice who were injected with AHCC for 90 days, followed by an observatory period of 30 days. In both cases, the number of cancer cells were significantly reduced. Dr. Smith carried out the same experiment with immune markers to trace the path of immunostimulation employed by AHCC in order to eradicate the HPV infected cells.
In discussing the results, Dr. Smith noted, “The results of this study were very encouraging. This study, initiated in 2008, shows that by itself AHCC has the potential to treat the HPV infection.”
Dr. Smith was part of an earlier research project that focused on the use of AHCC as an agent in chemotherapy for treatment of ovarian cancers, screening for drug interactions and improvement of its activity. She is a member of the research group focusing on gynecologic cancers and their treatment strategies.
Dr. Smith further added, “AHCC is a common, well tolerated nutritional supplement that has been used for decades in Japan, I am very excited to be pursuing a nutritional approach to trying to find a treatment for HPV infections. We had previously demonstrated an antiretroviral regimen that successfully eradicated the HPV infection but wanted to develop a more benign protocol, since these medications have a number of side effects.”
With this study, researchers have moved a step closer to putting an end to another fatal condition. It can only be hoped that therapeutic agents like these can help in treating as well as curing cervical and other HPV-associated cancers.