This seaweed extract can be a promising treatment for brain cancer

Sugar kelp (Saccharina latissimia) cultivated by GENIALG partner, Seaweed Energy Solutions (SES). Credit: SES.

In a new study, researchers found that a compound found in brown seaweeds could help to treat one of the most common and aggressive forms of malignant brain tumors.

The compound is a type of carotenoid pigment found in brown seaweeds, such as Saccharina latissima.

Also known as sugar kelp, the seaweed is cultivated in Europe and is available commercially.

The fucoxanthin compound is a bioactive compound previously found to have numerous health benefits including antioxidant, anticancer and anti-obesity effects.

The research was conducted by a team in the EU-funded project GENIALG and elsewhere.

The compound could provide an effective treatment against glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the most common and aggressive form of malignant brain tumor, with an annual incidence of three to four cases per 100,000 people in Europe.

Even though knowledge of its genetic causes is improving, it remains an incurable disease, with patients having an average survival rate of 12 months after diagnosis.

Part of the poor prognosis is due to tumor heterogeneity: different parts of the tumor have different characteristics, so tend to respond differently to a treatment.

As a result, a single treatment may kill some of the cancerous cells, while others continue to grow. Therefore, it is important to find and develop combination therapies that can tackle all parts of the tumor.

In the study, the team found that fucoxanthin not only inhibits cancer cell growth by itself but also improves the effectiveness of certain pharmaceutical drugs.

This means that the treatment of human brain cancer cells with a combination of pharmaceutical drugs and a natural product extracted from seaweed could provide a new, more effective treatment option in targeting this challenging disease in certain contexts.

Within this project, the researchers are studying the possible pharmaceutical application of natural products from brown seaweed as anticancer agents.

One author of the study is Dr. David Bailey.

The study is published in PLOS ONE.

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