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Metastasis and fucoidan

December 12, 2014


Numerous research is now showing that fucoidan directly affects cancer cells, causing apoptosis (cell death) in addition to enhancing immune reactions to cancer.  Fucoidan is found in seaweed at differing levels for different species of seaweed.  The three most potent fucoidan containing seaweed species arelaminaria japonica, undaria pinnatifida, and fucus vesiculosous.


Metastasis is the mechanism that cancers use to spread around the body. In order to metastasize, cancer cells need to evade immune surveillance, survive and invade a new tissue. Earlier research has suggested that fucoidan can inhibit metastasis of solid tumours. Cancer cells may use selectins to attach to endothelial surfaces prior to invading a new tissue space. There is signiificant research being performed in this area, but a new pivotal paper by Gassmann et al demonstrated that metastasis could be inhibited in part by selectin blockade with fucoidan in animal models. 


Fucoidan also alters the interaction of stromal derived factor (SDF1) with heparan sulphate on the cell surface, potentially blocking the traffic of metastasizing cells. Furthermore, fucoidan inhibits the activity of enzymes that break down connective tissues, which is associated with metastasis.


Other mechanisms by which fucoidan can block metastasis are now being uncovered. In another recent study, researchers looked at the effect of Undaria pinnatifida fucoidan on the highly metastatic mouse liver cancer (hepatocarcinoma) Hca-F cell line in vitro and in vivo.  Fucoidan inhibited tumour metastasis in vivo and cancer cell growth, migration, invasion, and adhesion capabilities in vitro.  Several markers were affected, involving inactivation of the NF-κß pathway mediated by PI3K/Akt and ERK signalling pathways.


As this research progresses, we can expect more findings to support a potential role for fucoidan to be developed and become more and more a staple of our diets to help prevent disease and maintain and health lifestyle.  




Gassmann P, Kang ML, Mees ST, Haier J. In vivo tumor cell adhesion in the pulmonary microvasculature is exclusively mediated by tumor cell-endothelial cell interaction. BMC Cancer. 2010 Apr 30;10:177. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-10-177.

Wang P, Liu Z, Liu X, Teng H, Zhang C, Hou L, Zou X.Anti-metastasis effect of fucoidan from Undaria pinnatifida sporophylls in mouse hepatocarcinoma Hca-F cells. PLoS One. 2014 Aug 27;9(8):e106071.


NPO Research Institute of Fucoidan.

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