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  • Writer's pictureInfinitum Health Team

Seaweed and Chemotherapy - can it help cancer therapy?

Several recent international studies have illustrated that seaweeds and their extracts may have the capability of inhibiting and even treating cancer. Seaweed therapy may even outperform chemotherapy.

The most recent study, from Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, found that two fractionated polysaccharides from the seaweed species Sargassum vulgare inhibited the process of tumor angiogenesis – more specifically a tumor’s development and maintenance of blood vessels in order to grow. They also found that the two constituents inhibited the growth of the HeLa human cancer cell line.

Chemotherapy and Fucoidan

The HeLa is a cell line derived from Henrietta Lacks, a young woman who died with cervical cancer in 1951.

This result is boosted by another recent study from scientists from Malaysia’s University Putra. This study utilized the edible red seaweed species Eucheuma cottonii. The researchers found that an extract of this seaweed was more effective at preventing the spread of breast cancer among rats than tamoxifen.

The treatment also resulted in no negative side effects and no toxicity to the liver or kidneys – only one of the negative side effects of chemotherapy drug tomoxifen.

In February, researchers from Japan’s Red Cross Kyoto Daiichi Hospital reported that zeaxanthin – along with other seaweed carotenoids – reduces colorectal cancer incidence among Japanese adults.

In this study 893 adults were tested along with having colorectal endoscopy. Men who had higher circulating levels of zeaxanthin had a third less incidence of colorectal cancer and half the incidence of polyps than those who had less zeaxanthin levels.

Among women, those who ate more seaweed had more than a 75% reduction in colorectal cancer incidence.

Research from Japan’s Kyushu University confirmed that when human breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231 cell line) were treated with fucoidan – a constituent of brown seaweeds – the cancer growth was inhibited through multiple processes.

Among these processes were the stimulation of caspase activity. Caspases are enzymes that are dormant until triggered into activity. When they are triggered, some can exert cell death among cancer cells, as took place following fucoidan treatment.

Another effect of fucoidan found in this study was its ability to alter the membranes of cancer cell mitochondria – changing the ion exchange through the membrane. This serves, along with the release of cytochrome c and Bcl-2 proteins, to contribute to cancer cell death as well.

Research from South Korea’s College of Veterinary Medicine found that fucoidan inhibited the metastasizing of the A549 human lung cancer cell line. The A549 human lung cancer cell line is one of the most aggressive forms of lung cancer. The mechanism seen in this study was that the fucoidan decreased the MMP-2 activity of the cancer cells. As MMP-2 activity is directly linked to caspase enzymes, this confirms the Kyushu University research noted above.

The researchers concluded that, “fucoidan can be considered as a potential therapeutic reagent against the metastasis of invasive human lung cancer cells.”

Other recent studies have shown that seaweeds and their extracts inhibit gastric cancer and several others. Research from the Science University of Tokyo found seaweed extracts inhibited five different human cancer cell lines.

Seaweed Forest

Research also confirms that seaweeds have incredible free radical scavenger abilities. A study from Denmark’s National Food Institute and the Technical University of Denmark tested extracts of 16 different seaweed species from the Danish coastlines for free radical scavenging, and found their phenolic content and sulphated polysaccharide content enabled them to produce significant antioxidation and radical-scavenging effects.

This has been confirmed by research from Hilo’s College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawaii. The researchers are studying the anticancer effects of seaweeds, and finding that phenolic compounds such as phlorotannins and bromophenols, along with their fucoxanthin content contributes to an antioxidant effect that appears to help prevent different forms of cancer.


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Adams, Casey. "Seaweed Vs Chemotherapy". Date Accessed: 9/1/2015.

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