An over-the-counter supplement sold as an immune booster just might work. Active hexose correlated compound, or AHCC, apparently revs up the immune system to knock out human papillomavirus that can cause cervical cancer. While two vaccines can prevent infection by cancer-causing HPV subtypes (SN: 4/20/13, p. 20), the vaccines don’t eliminate HPV ensconced in the body.
In a pilot study of 10 women infected with HPV, three appear to have cleared the virus after taking the supplement daily for three months and remained clear of the virus one month after their last dose of AHCC, a shiitake mushroom extract, says pharmacologist Judith Smith of the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston. Two other women saw declining virus levels and are continuing to take the compound for up to six months total. Five women who were early entrants in the test were assigned to take the pills for less than three months. They failed to knock out their infections. The pills had no side effects.
It can be hard to know whether HPV has been vanquished, so the researchers are scanning the women for immune proteins produced in response to the virus. “We’re optimistic that we truly have eradication,” says Smith, who presented the data October 28 in Houston at a meeting of the Society for Integrative Oncology.
Editor’s Note: This article was updated November 5, 2014 to clarify how long the three women who cleared the virus had taken the supplement.