Seaweed extract reveals anticancer pathways

Brand new research has uncovered the biological pathways by which a seaweed ingredient can combat cancer cells

The ingredient – known as fucoidan – is a unique bioactive compound naturally found in brown macroalage.

Undertaken at the University of Tasmania, the in vitro research utilised Maritech fucoidan extracts produced by Australian biotechnology company Marinova.

Brown seaweeds have a long history of use in complementary medicine with fucoidan, holding particular significance in integrative oncology. It is common for fucoidan-containing supplements and drinks to be administered to cancer patients in many Asian countries today.

The anticancer effects of Maritech fucoidan have been demonstrated in preclinical animal and in vitro studies, including reducing tumour growth and enhancing the therapeutic effect of chemotherapy. Yet, the specific mechanism of action by which fucoidan promotes these benefits has remained unclear – until now.

In this latest study, researchers identified that Maritech fucoidan beneficially affected a number of anticancer pathways. These include cell cycle arrest, DNA damage, RNA metabolism and protein synthesis.

The findings indicate that fucoidan can limit cancer cells in their ability to make proteins, utilise energy and repair damage to themselves.

Importantly, the research showed that Maritech fucoidan works selectively against cancer cells but not against normal, healthy cells that were used as a control.

This research further demonstrates the safety of fucoidan as an adjunct to cancer therapy.

Marinova Chief Scientist, Dr Helen Fitton, explained that this was the first study to screen fucoidan against a gene library to investigate all possible pathways of action.

“This research is exciting as we now have a more complete picture of how fucoidan delivers its anticancer effects. These findings provide new insight for further research and the development of new complementary therapies.”

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