Seaweed versus Chemotherapy: Can Seaweed Treat Cancer?

seaweed versus chemoSeveral recent international studies have illustrated that seaweeds and their extracts may have the capability of inhibiting and even treating cancer. Seaweed therapy may even outperform chemotherapy.

The most recent study, from Brazil’s Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte, found that two fractionated polysaccharides from the seaweed species Sargassum vulgare inhibited the process of tumor angiogenesis – more specifically a tumor’s development and maintenance of blood vessels in order to grow. They also found that the two constituents inhibited the growth of the HeLa human cancer cell line.

The HeLa is a cell line derived from Henrietta Lacks, a young woman who died with cervical cancer in 1951.

This result is boosted by another recent study from scientists from Malaysia’s University Putra. This study utilized the edible red seaweed species Eucheuma cottonii. The researchers found that an extract of this seaweed was more effective at preventing the spread of breast cancer among rats than tamoxifen.

The treatment also resulted in no negative side effects and no toxicity to the liver or kidneys – only one of the negative side effects of chemotherapy drug tomoxifen.

Carotenoids from seaweed

In February, researchers from Japan’s Red Cross Kyoto Daiichi Hospital reported that zeaxanthin – along with other seaweed carotenoids – reduces colorectal cancer incidence among Japanese adults.

In this study 893 adults were tested along with having colorectal endoscopy. Men who had higher circulating levels of zeaxanthin had a third less incidence of colorectal cancer and half the incidence of polyps than those who had less zeaxanthin levels.

Among women, those who ate more seaweed had more than a 75% reduction in colorectal cancer incidence.

Fucoidan and cancer

Research from Japan’s Kyushu University confirmed that when human breast cancer cells (MDA-MB-231 cell line) were treated with fucoidan – a constituent of brown seaweeds – the cancer growth was inhibited through multiple processes.

Among these processes were the stimulation of caspase activity. Caspases are enzymes that are dormant until triggered into activity. When they are triggered, some can exert cell death among cancer cells, as took place following fucoidan treatment.

Another effect of fucoidan found in this study was its ability to alter the membranes of cancer cell mitochondria – changing the ion exchange through the membrane. This serves, along with the release of cytochrome c and Bcl-2 proteins, to contribute to cancer cell death as well.

Research from South Korea’s College of Veterinary Medicine found that fucoidan inhibited the metastasizing of the A549 human lung cancer cell line. The A549 human lung cancer cell line is one of the most aggressive forms of lung cancer. The mechanism seen in this study was that the fucoidan decreased the MMP-2 activity of the cancer cells. As MMP-2 activity is directly linked to caspase enzymes, this confirms the Kyushu University research noted above.

The researchers concluded:

“Fucoidan can be considered as a potential therapeutic reagent against the metastasis of invasive human lung cancer cells.”

Seaweed and gastric cancer

Other recent studies have shown that seaweeds and their extracts inhibit gastric cancer and several others. Research from the Science University of Tokyo found seaweed extracts inhibited five different human cancer cell lines.

Research also confirms that seaweeds have incredible free radical scavenger abilities. A study from Denmark’s National Food Institute and the Technical University of Denmark tested extracts of 16 different seaweed species from the Danish coastlines for free radical scavenging, and found their phenolic content and sulphated polysaccharide content enabled them to produce significant antioxidation and radical-scavenging effects.

This has been confirmed by research from Hilo’s College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawaii. The researchers are studying the anticancer effects of seaweeds, and finding that phenolic compounds such as phlorotannins and bromophenols, along with their fucoxanthin content contributes to an antioxidant effect that appears to help prevent different forms of cancer.

The Living Cleanse

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Dore CM, Alves MG, Santos ND, Cruz AK, Câmara RB, Castro AJ, Alves LG, Nader HB, Leite EL. Antiangiogenic activity and direct antitumor effect from a sulfated polysaccharide isolated from seaweed. Microvasc Res. 2013 Mar 15.

Shamsabadi FT, Khoddami A, Fard SG, Abdullah R, Othman HH, Mohamed S. Comparison of Tamoxifen with Edible Seaweed (Eucheuma cottonii L.) Extract in Suppressing Breast Tumor. Nutr Cancer. 2013 Feb;65(2):255-62.

Sabeena Farvin KH, Jacobsen C. Phenolic compounds and antioxidant activities of selected species of seaweeds from Danish coast. Food Chem. 2013 Jun 1;138(2-3):1670-81.

Park EJ, Pezzuto JM. Antioxidant Marine Products in Cancer Chemoprevention. Antioxid Redox Signal. 2013 Mar 19.

Zhang Z, Teruya K, Eto H, Shirahata S. Induction of Apoptosis by Low-Molecular-Weight Fucoidan through Calcium- and Caspase-Dependent Mitochondrial Pathways in MDA-MB-231 Breast Cancer Cells. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. 2013;77(2):235-42.

Okuyama Y, Ozasa K, Oki K, Nishino H, Fujimoto S, Watanabe Y. Inverse associations between serum concentrations of zeaxanthin and other carotenoids and colorectal neoplasm in Japanese. Int J Clin Oncol. 2013 Feb 5.

Wang R, Paul VJ, Luesch H. Seaweed extracts and unsaturated fatty acid constituents from the green alga Ulva lactuca as activators of the cytoprotective Nrf2-ARE pathway. Free Radic Biol Med. 2013 Apr;57:141-53.

Lee H, Kim JS, Kim E. Fucoidan from seaweed Fucus vesiculosus inhibits migration and invasion of human lung cancer cell via PI3K-Akt-mTOR pathways. PLoS One. 2012;7(11):e50624.

Zhang RL, Luo WD, Bi TN, Zhou SK. Evaluation of antioxidant and immunity-enhancing activities of Sargassum pallidum aqueous extract in gastric cancer rats. Molecules. 2012 Jul 11;17(7):8419-29.

D’Orazio N, Gemello E, Gammone MA, de Girolamo M, Ficoneri C, Riccioni G. Fucoxantin: a treasure from the sea. Mar Drugs. 2012 Mar;10(3):604-16.

Myobatake Y, Takeuchi T, Kuramochi K, Kuriyama I, Ishido T, Hirano K, Sugawara F, Yoshida H, Mizushina Y. Pinophilins A and B, inhibitors of mammalian A-, B-, and Y-family DNA polymerases and human cancer cell proliferation. J Nat Prod. 2012 Feb 24;75(2):135-41.

Case Adams is a California Naturopath with a PhD in Natural Health Sciences, and Board Certified Alternative Medicine Practitioner. He has authored 26 books on natural healing strategies. “My journey into writing about alternative medicine began about 9:30 one evening after I finished with a patient at the clinic I practiced at over a decade ago. I had just spent the last two hours explaining how diet, sleep and other lifestyle choices create health problems and how changes in these, along with certain herbal medicines and other natural strategies can radically yet safely turn ones health around. As I drove home that night, I realized I needed to get this knowledge out to more people. So I began writing about health with a mission to reach those who desperately need this information. The strategies in my books and articles are backed by scientific evidence along with wisdom handed down through traditional medicines for thousands of years.”

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