2015 APR

Mechanisms of fucoidan’s anticancer action: 4, 5 of 5

  • fucoidan


    Angiogenesis inhibition effects of fucoidan.

    It is known that cancer cells create new blood vessels for their own oxygen and nutritional supplementation when they have diameters of 2 mm and over. Cancer cells that have obtained this extra nutritional supplementation grow faster, and through the blood vessels they metastasize. Fucoidan has effects inhibiting this formation of new blood vessels, a process known as angiogenesis. Shibata (1) investigated the effect of oversulfated fucoidan on angiogenesis using human umbilical vein endothelial cells. According to their results, fucoidan, depending on density, blocked the formation of lumen by the umbilical vein endothelial cells and suppressed umbilical vein endothelial cell migration down to 40% of the control. Collagenase activity fell as well. Thus, they took oversulfated fucoidan to be a new type of angiogenesis inhibitor that directly suppresses protease cascades. Parish et al. (2) reported that sulfates of maltotetraose (glucose tetrasaccharide) and maltohexaose (glucose hexasaccharide) inhibit angiogenesis while at the same time inhibiting cancer cell metastasis. However, they state that the substances have no relationship with induction of HGF production. Takaku & Kimura (3) investigated the antitumor effects and mechanism of action of food containing gagome-derived fucoidan. They orally administered the food in the form of water suspensions to five-week old mice for two weeks. As experimental materials they used sarcoma 180 and matrigel. They demonstrated significant inhibitory effects in the group administered 2 g/kg as compared with the control group. With respect to the sarcoma 180-bearing mice, administration of this food had no effect whatsoever on body weight and no effect whatsoever on the spleen, thymus, or the weight of adipose tissue. In oral administration in the mice transplanted with matrigel, they increased the weight of matrigel and the amount of hemoglobin going into the matrigel and found that it significantly inhibited angiogenesis action. Thus, the antitumor effects of this food are based on the inhibition of angiogenesis.
  • Fucoidan: effects on immune activity.

    Born as we are with the ability to cure diseases, we humans are equipped with the capacity to resist bacteria and viruses. This is what is known as immunity. However, this immunity declines due to aging and various environmental changes. When undesirable foreign substances enter into the body, macrophages react immediately, swallowing up bacteria and viruses with their own cells and eating and digesting them. Naturally, they act the same way with cancer cells. This is where the "phage" (meaning "to eat") in "macrophage" and "phagocyte" comes from. When a lot of enemies come in all at the same time, macrophages order their friends to attack. At this point they send out T lymphocytes, which include helper T cells, killer T cells, suppressor T cells, and memory T cells. There is a clear division of roles among the respective cells, which includes the killer T cells that, when they find a cancer cell, make a hole in the cell membrane of the cancer cell and send in protein-degrading enzymes, helper T cells which do not attack directly but release cytokines such as interleukin 2 to activate macrophages and killer T cells and boost their attack power, suppressor T cells which give commands to stop attacking when cancer cells disappear from the surrounding area, and memory T cells which remember foreign invaders in preparation for the future. There are also natural killer cells which carry out a out a role in which they immediately begin attacking foreign bodies whenever they find them, regardless of commands from other cells, destroying cancer cell membranes and killing cancer cells. Described above is the immune system’s setup for attacking cancer. Fucoidan is a substance that can attack cancer by spurring on this immune system. Although apoptosis is generally well-known among fucoidan’s anticancer effects, this immune system enhancement is attracting attention.

Special properties of fucoidan cancer treatment: An alternative therapy

Current cancer treatments rely on methods such as surgery to remove cancer cells, administration of anticancer drugs, radiation therapy, and the like. However, it cannot be denied that the effects extend to normal cells in every method, and these methods are also accompanied by side effects. They are also problematic for patients in a physically weakened state. However, as we have explained so far, fucoidan’s apoptosis induction effects do not function by attacking cancer cells but rather drive the cancer cells to kill themselves on their own. Moreover, it has no negative effects on normal cells. This seems to be why fucoidan has been described as an "alternative treatment", but we are very hopeful that the results of further research in the future will lead to the establishment of fucoidan-based treatment methods. Please have a look at our fucoidan products.

For reference:

  1. 柴田芳明 1998. 福岡大学薬学紀要 22, 99-101.
  2. C. R. Parish et al. 1999. Cancer Res., 59, 3433-3441.
  3. 高久武司・木村善行 2002. 日本体質学雑誌 64, 1-2, 80-86.