The anti-cancer effects of fucoidan: a review of both in vivo and in vitro investigations
Updated: May 21
Excellent new research about Fucoidan, one of our key ingredients in both our Infinimin® and Infiniderm® brands! Remarkable review of fucoidan's anticancer properties in preclinical study work. More research is needed, but an excellent review!
The Cliffs Notes Version (Short summary to suppress the TL;DR generations)
As we know, fucoidan is a kind of the polysaccharide, which comes from brown algae and comprises of sulfated fucose residues. There are two types of "backbones" for fucoidans, as shown in Figure 1 below.
Fucoidan has shown a large range of biological activities in basic research, including many elements like anti-infammatory, anti-cancer, anti-viral, anti-oxidation, anticoagulant, antithrombotic, anti-angiogenic and anti-Helicobacter pylori, etc. Cancer, however, has gotten the most publication and research interest. Cancer is a multifactorial disease of multiple causes. Most of the current chemotherapy drugs for cancer therapy are projected to eliminate the ordinary deregulation mechanisms in cancer cells. Plenty of healthy tissue, however, are also influenced by these chemical cytotoxic effects. Existing researches have demonstrated that fucoidan can directly exert the anti-cancer actions through cell cycle arrest or direct induction of apoptosis (cell death), and can also indirectly kill cancer cells by activating natural killer cells. Fucoidan is used as a new anti-tumor drug or as an adjuvant in combination with an anti-tumor drug because of its high biological activity, wide source, low resistance to drug resistance and low side effects. This research reviews the mechanism by which fucoidan can eliminate tumor cells, delay tumor growth and seems to have a synergy with anticancer chemotherapy drugs in vitro, in vivo and in clinical trials.
The more detail version, for those of you still reading at this point
As stated earlier, cancer is a multifactorial disease of multiple causes. It is mainly caused by acquired genetic changes, resulting in tumor cells gaining survival or growth advantages. Its occurrence is a complicated process with multiple factors and steps, which is closely related to infection, smoking, occupational exposure, environmental pollution, unreasonable diet, genetics and other factors. It has biological characteristics such as cell differentiation and proliferation abnormality, loss of growth control, invasiveness and metastasis. Tumor metastasis is one of the important causes of cancer patients’ death. Abnormal intracellular signal transduction and continuous activation of cellular pathways are usually closely related to tumor cell proliferation and survival. For example, the PI3K-AKT-mTOR signaling pathway has attracted much attention due to its involvement in the regulation of various cellular functions including messenger RNA(mRNA) translation, cell cycle regulation, gene transcription, apoptosis, autophagy and metabolism. At present, the treatment of cancer mainly depends on surgery, radiation therapy and chemotherapy. But the side effects are serious, so the curative effect is limited. Therefore, the search for low toxicity natural substances is one of the current research priorities of scientists. It has been found that some natural extracts targeted specific signaling pathways can inhibit or delay the carcinogenesis process at different stages and have the characteristics, such as targeting specificity, low cytotoxicity, and easy induction of cancer cell apoptosis. Fucoidan has been used as a medicinal nutritional supplement in Asia for a long time due to its medicinal characteristics, including anti-cancer action. It is a category of sulfated carbohydrates that are derived from marine brown algae. The anticancer activity of fucoidan has been widely researched and the earliest research reports appeared in the 1980s. This review summarizes fucoidan’s anti-cancer therapeutic potential as a natural marine drug based on recent advances from in vitro and in vivo experiments.
Below is a great, basic summary of one of the key pathways fucoidan disrupts and causes cell death. Six different pathways are regulated (at a high level) and either up or down regulated which ultimately cause cancer cell death. Cancers that are targetd by one pathway, often come back. Hence, a person can go into remission but the cancers come back. They growth and adjust through a different pathway. Fucoidan seems to stop all of the doors where the cells don't have a chance to come back. See Figure 3 below for a basic summary of one of the mechanisms proven by researchers.
Below, you will find 5 tables articulating the researchers review of fucoidan and its anticancer activity. Reserach summaries are for some of the most common cancer cell types such as colon, breast, lung, leukemia, and hepatoma (liver cancer).
If you read any one of the preceding 5 tables, you have seen pretty dramatic success from this natural compound.
At this time, scientists have demonstrated the anti-tumor effect of fucoidan, including inhibiting the growth, metastasis, angiogenesis and inducting apoptosis of various cells of tumor in vitro and in vivo, as shown in the tables above. Furthermore, fucoidan, as an immunomodulatory molecule (think immune balancer; when immune system is struggling, these compounds assist in balance of the organisms immune system to respond to threats), reduces side effects when administrating with chemotherapy drugs and radiation therapy. In short, fucoidan has great potential in cancer treatments. However, due to the lack of research on the potential pharmacokinetic interactions between fucoidan and traditional tumor drugs, there are few clinical data about fucoidan. Moreover, a heavy bias (or is it direct control??) that occurs in natural research and products like these is that the income opportunity and ability to copy and not protect inventions makes them less likely to make it to clinical trials as the Return on Investment (ROI) may not be worth it. Or, they may be a threat to a traditional framework and infrastructure in a pharmaceutical system and supply chain that doesn't allow scientific disruption unless it controls the revenues from it. We'll let you decide that .
In the future, more research will need to be conducted to explore its mechanisms and functions in the treatment of cancer. As stated before, and in many of our blogs, more large-scale and multi-center blind-controlled trials are needed to determine the efficacy of fucoidan support for cancer patients, especially in chemotherapy patients. Hopefully, in the future, fucoidan may become a favorable and natural anticancer therapeutic or auxiliary drug, opening a new direction for new anticancer drugs’ evolution.
To your health,
Infinitum Health Team
Lin, Y., Qi, X., Liu, H.et al. The anti-cancer effects of fucoidan: a review of both in vivo and in vitro investigations. Cancer Cell Int. 20,154 (2020).