Fucoidan - anti-cancer polysaccharide in brown seaweeds

Fucoidan -  anti-cancer polysaccharide in brown seaweeds

Fucoidan is a sulphated polysaccharide found in the cell walls of various types of brown seaweed, brown algae and in sea cucumbers; it has anticancer, anti-viral neuroprotective, radioprotective and anti-inflammatory activity and causes leukemia, lymphoma, colorectal and stomach cancer cells to self-destruct, reduces metastases and appears to make some chemotherapy work better, improving survival.

The many benefits of Fucoidan

Fucoidan is a natural compound found in various forms of seaweed like kombu, limu, wakame and mozuku plus animals like the sea cucumber. About 4 per cent of the dry weight of seaweed is fucoidan.

Fucoidan is found in two forms: 

    * F-fucoidan, a complex sulphated polysaccharide containing the sulphuric ester L-fucose; and 

   * U-fucoidan containing the trace elements galactose, xylose, and about 20- per cent glucuronic acid.

Over the past two decades there has been increasing interest in fucans (fucoidans). The first studies, though, took place back in 1913 and fucans were known for their anti-coagulant properties. They are polysaccharides, mainly sulfated L-fucose. Fucans have a wide structural diversity and many physiological properties. They have frequently been analysed as potential drugs. The variation in fucoidan levels in the plant seems linked to the depth at which they grow.

To their anti-coagulant properties were added antithrobotic properties, but then varies studies noted that they had anti-inflammatory and immune system benefits. They were then found to have anti-adhesive benefits and to protect cells from viral infection. They were studied as an alternative to anti-coagulent drug Heparin. A review of their benefits took place in 1995 Boisson-Vidal(1). Fucoidan was then also found to have significant immune-boosting effects, and can even reduce blood cholesterol levels and be effective in cases of meningitis!

Fucoidan and cancer

Research studies as far back as 2002 and 2005 labeled Fucoidan as an exciting new ingredient with potential for cancer treatment. Seaweeds containing fucans have been found to have anti-tumor activity in mice and Japanese researchers at the Biomedical Research Laboratories found that Fucoidan caused leukaemia, lymphoma, colorectal and stomach cancer cells to self-destruct.

Fucoidan has been shown to block EGFR and it has been shown to block the appearance of tumours in rats, fed Fucoidan for 55 days. There has been research with cancers such as lung and breast cancer. 

There are also small scale studies where Fucoidan has been used to improve the success of chemotherapy - for example with FOLFOX and FOLFIRI in colorectal cancer where it improved survival times. Research was attempted with cyclophosphamide and mice with lung cancer. No improvement occured in the group taking the drug, but those injected with fucoidan on its own had 33% less growth and significantly less lung metastases - 29% less (2).

Studies show lymphoma responds to fucoidan

Researchers from the Hashemite University in Jordan at the AACR Dead Sea International Conference on Advances in Cancer Research working on previous studies that the extract from common brown seaweed causes cancer cell death (apoptosis) and shrinks tumours, found that fucoidan suppressed cancer cell growth and caused a significant increase in apoptosis, or cellular death, in lymphoma cancer cells while leaving healthy cells intact.

Lymphoma is divided into two classes, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s, which are in turn further classified into B-cell and T-cell groups.

'Some forms of B-cell lymphoma are especially resistant to standard treatment and thus new therapies are needed ', said Professor Mohammad Irhimeh adding, 'in this study, we looked at a new treatment strategy using novel active compounds derived from a natural source - seaweed.’

Clinical Trials are planned.

Review of the benefits of Fucoidan

A thorough review (3) of the properties of Seaweeds was undertaken in 2016. The summary included - 

Because of their harsh environments, each individual brown seaweed species produces its own array of Fucans (fucoidans).  They are complex polysaccharides and some are linked with anti-coagulant activity, others boost the immune system via cytokines, macrophages and dendritic cells. They are anti-viral and cyto-protective.

They enhance the performance of drugs such as 5-FU while protecting healthy cells and seems to reduce side-effects from many chemotherapy drugs. A large number of studies in mice have now shown high levels of anti-cancer and anti-tumour activity.

Memorial Sloan Kettering also have a very positive review on Fucoidans.

One problem does seem to be that sometimes stomach acidity gets in the way of maximum effect with supplements.

Go to: Lymphoma overview - symptoms, causes and treatment alternatives

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1.  Boisson-Vidal, C., Haroun, F., Ellouali, M., Blondin, C., Fischer, A.M., De Agostini, A., and Jozefonvicz, J. Biological activities of polysaccharide from marine algae. 

2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4413214/ 

3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4820313/


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Please be clear: At CANCERactive we do not consider the above compound to be a cure for cancer, despite what the research says or experts doing the research may claim. The above, is an article on the compound from published research and expert opinion in the public domain. At CANCERactive we do not believe that any single compound (drug, vitamin, whatever) is a cure for cancer. We believe that people can significantly increase their personal odds of survival by building an Integrated Programme of treatments. Equally, cancer prevention is best practiced through a width of measures.

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