How Fucoidan Stops Lung Cancer Cell Migration

Fucoidan, a sulfated polysaccharide predominantly found in various species of brown seaweed, has gained significant attention in cancer research due to its anti-tumor activities. Among its various anti-cancer properties, the ability to inhibit the migration of cancer cells, including lung cancer cells, is particularly noteworthy. This property is critical because the migration of cancer cells is a key step in the process of metastasis, where cancer spreads from its original site to other parts of the body. Here’s how fucoidan can inhibit lung cancer cell migration:

1. Inhibition of Matrix Metalloproteinases (MMPs)

Fucoidan has been shown to inhibit the activity of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), which are enzymes that degrade components of the extracellular matrix (ECM). The ECM provides structural support to tissues, and its degradation by MMPs is a crucial step in cancer cell migration and invasion. By inhibiting MMPs, fucoidan can prevent the breakdown of the ECM, thereby impeding the ability of cancer cells to migrate and invade new tissues.

2. Modulation of the FAK/PI3K/Akt Signaling Pathway

Focal adhesion kinase (FAK) and the phosphoinositide 3-kinase/protein kinase B (PI3K/Akt) signaling pathway play significant roles in cell migration and survival. Fucoidan has been reported to downregulate the activation of FAK and the subsequent PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. This modulation can lead to reduced migration and invasion capabilities of lung cancer cells, as well as decreased survival and proliferation of these cells.

3. Regulation of EMT Markers

Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a biological process that allows epithelial cells, which are normally stationary, to acquire mesenchymal, or fibroblast-like properties, enabling them to migrate and invade. Fucoidan has been observed to regulate the expression of EMT markers, such as E-cadherin (upregulation) and N-cadherin (downregulation), promoting the maintenance of the epithelial phenotype and reducing the migratory and invasive capacities of cancer cells.

4. Suppression of Inflammatory Cytokines

Chronic inflammation is closely linked to cancer progression, including the enhancement of cancer cell migration and invasion. Fucoidan can suppress the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines that are involved in cancer progression, thereby indirectly inhibiting the migration of lung cancer cells.

Research Evidence and Clinical Implications

The anti-migration effects of fucoidan on lung cancer cells have been demonstrated in various in vitro (test tube) studies and some in vivo (animal) models. These findings suggest that fucoidan could potentially be used as a therapeutic agent to prevent or reduce the metastasis of lung cancer. However, clinical trials in humans are necessary to confirm these effects and to determine the safety, efficacy, and optimal dosages of fucoidan for therapeutic use in lung cancer patients.


Fucoidan’s ability to inhibit lung cancer cell migration highlights its potential as an adjunctive therapy in the treatment of lung cancer, particularly for preventing metastasis. However, its use in clinical settings requires further validation through comprehensive clinical research. As with any supplement, patients should consult with their healthcare provider before using fucoidan, especially those undergoing cancer treatment, to ensure its safety and appropriateness for their specific condition.