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Good Reasons Not to Fear Cancer

Susanna Sisson's picture
Antiangiogenic foods

Scientists have been searching for answers to the problem of cancer growth for decades by studying the mechanisms of cancer and looking for ways to induce cancerous cells to be reprogrammed to commit cellular death or apoptosis. While normal cells have a definitive life cycle, cancer cells to not abide by the same physiologic rules.


Instead, cancer cells proliferate and grow rapidly, invading healthy tissues and often traveling to secondary sites within the body (metastasis) via lymph or blood, the reason that with surgical removal of cancer we often see metastasis within weeks or months and why chemotherapy and radiation are used despite devastating side effects. Researchers have also been looking for ways to cut off nutrition to cancer cells to induce death. This process is called anti-angiogenesis.

What is apoptosis?
Apoptosis, also known as programmed cell death, and is a normal, controlled, and regulated process of the development of healthy cells. The series of changes that take place during apoptosis include blebbing, cell shrinkage, nuclear fragmentation, chromatin condensation, chromosomal DNA fragmentation and eventual death. As old cells die, new cells take their place, similar to a snake shedding its skin and having fresh new skin.

Apoptosis functions in multiple contexts. In development, apoptosis allows for the definition of shape. For example, the fingers of fetal hands are webbed, but the tissue between the fingers separates as the cells die so that they become independently mobile. In animals such as frogs that could mean the loss of the tail when a tadpole transitions to a frog and DNA mutation is the reason we see two-headed animals or birth defects. The process of apoptosis is a necessary part of both human and animal development and cellular regeneration.

The human body consists of approximately 60 trillion specialized cells and each one has a specific life span. Each cell is programmed to regenerate after a specific period and this regeneration or “metabolism” is what keeps us alive. Of special interest since 1981 when they were discovered are stem cells.

Once a cell's DNA has become damaged due to toxins, oxidative stress, or for whatever reason, the process of cellular degradation or mutation is in progress. Unless there is a mechanism to repair the cellular damage, every new cell that is produced from the damaged DNA will be forever altered or mutated and cellular replication as well as function will be impaired.
Once a cell becomes damaged it is more likely to transition from pre-cancerous to cancerous and unfortunately cancer cells do not undergo the normal process of apoptosis and do not die. Instead they keep growing, dividing, crowding out and starving healthy cells.

Angiogenesis versus Anti-angiogenesis

Another process that is in the forefront of medical research is angiogenesis.

Angiogenesis is the growth of blood vessels from the existing vasculature and our bodies have the innate ability to regulate this process. The field of angiogenesis has grown enormously in the past 30 years, with only 40 papers published in 1980 to nearly 6000 in 2010. Today there are about 1,130,000 sites that discuss the process. Why has there been this explosive growth in angiogenesis research? Angiogenic therapies provide a potential to conquer cancer, heart diseases, and other life-threatening medical conditions. I have witnessed heart surgeries in which angiogenesis or the growth of new capillaries around an existing blockage, the body’s natural bypass system, saved patient’s lives. I have also worked with transplant patients in which angiogenesis if a vital part of recovery. According to Dr. William Li, founder of the Angiogenesis Foundation, “The lives of at least 1 billion people worldwide could be improved with angiogenic therapy.” [8] Dr. Li points out that cancer that once cancer grows beyond the size of a pen tip and angiogenesis is established it is much harder to eradicate – therefore prevention is the key.

While angiogenesis is desirable under some circumstances such as collateral circulation, wound healing and repair of tissues, in the case of cancer it is the mechanism which feeds the cancer. The capillary blood system grows and branches out allowing the cancerous cells to invade healthy cells and tissue, a process called metastasis.

In order to combat cancer, anti-angiogenesis or the destruction of the capillaries surrounding the cancer must take place. And here is the key, blood vessels that feed cancer are abnormal and more friable than normal capillaries, so they are susceptible to treatments that induce anti-angiogenesis. [8]

Department of Bioengineering professor at Yale University and recipient of the 2014 Mines Award, Mark Salzman, has stated that “anti-angiogenesis is one of the most important factors in the battle against cancer.” Researchers world-wide are conducting studies in hope of finding the answer to this enormous issue.

Is fucoidan the answer?

Fucoidan is thought to be one of the most promising health discoveries in the last 100 years.

Fucoidan, present in brown seaweed, was discovered in 1913 by Professor Kylin of Uppsala University in Sweden. Initially named “fucoijin,” the substance subsequently became known as “fucoidan” based on the international naming convention on sugars.

Fucoidan is a nutrient found in brown algae such as kombu, wakame (mekabu) and mozuku, limu moui, and is found in smaller amounts in certain sea animals like sea cucumbers. Chemically, fucoidan is a polysaccharide whose main constituent is sulfated fucose. In addition to fucose, the saccharide chain that constitutes fucoidan also includes galactose, mannose, xylose and uronic acid. The name “fucoidan” does not represent substances of a given structure, but it is a general term that refers to polysaccharides whose main constituent is fucose.

Studies indicate that fucoidan can induce cellular death in cancer cells without disrupting the function of or damaging healthy cells. Of the 1320 studies at The National Library of Medicine - Pubmed, 180 of which relate to cancer, positive results have been noted in cancers of the bladder, blood (leukemia, lymphoma – Hodgkin’s and Non-Hodgkin’s, and Multiple Myeloma), bone, breast, colon, kidney, liver, lung, metastatic cancers, pancreas, prostate, stomach and skin (including basal cell and melanoma). Other sources in Japan, site positive effects in brain, esophageal, gallbladder, heart, neck & throat (laryngeal cancer, lingual cancer , pharyngeal cancer), reproductive (cervical, ovarian, testicular and prostate).

Until recently, clinical studies had not found any efficacy of fucoidan in brain tumors citing the impervious nature of the blood brain barrier (BBB). [9] Yet I have personally witnessed clinical reactions to fucoidan and shrinkage of brain tumors in several patients documented by MRI and CT scans. I speculated that perhaps the explanation for the discrepancies was there had been some type of microscopic damage to the BBB which would allow fucoidan to cross the BBB in order to be effective.

Then in June 2015, a stunning discovery was made that will change medical textbooks and the practice of medicine. Antoine Louveau, a postdoctoral fellow at the University of Virginia, (UV) Department of Neuroscience developed a technique to mount a mouse’s meninges – The membranes covering the brain – on a single slide to enable examination of the structure as a whole. He detected vessel-like patterns in the distribution of immune cells in the meninges and contacted Jonathan Kipnis, Professor of Neuroscience and the university’s Director of the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. Other team members were instrumental to the success of the study. “Live imaging of these vessels was crucial to demonstrate their function, and it would not be possible without collaboration with Tajie Harris,” said Kipnis. Harris is an assistant professor of neuroscience and a member of the Center for Brain Immunology and Glia. Kipnis also credits Igor Smirnov, a research associate in the Kipnis lab for his “phenomenal” surgical skills. The newly discovered structures are located on the meninges and travel down along a major blood vessel into the sinus cavities and are the first proof that indeed a connection between the lymphatic system and the central nervous system exist. [7]

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The unexpected presence of the lymphatic vessels that science previously insisted did not exist raises a tremendous number of questions and potential new treatments and delivery systems for the treatment of neurological disorders from autism and Alzheimer’s disease to demyelinating diseases such as multiple sclerosis to questions about cancer.

Clinical studies
There are approximately 180 studies relating to fucoidan and cancer at Pubmed, 82 deal with apoptosis and 34 relate to angiogenesis but not all studies are published at Pubmed which is a division of the National Library of Medicine in the U.S. There are many other sources of scientific studies such as Researchgate and Biomed Central. If one searches the keywords fucoidan and scholarly articles on the internet there are over 68,000 search results. If one were to narrow the search to fucoidan, scholarly articles, and cancer there are over 22,000 results. There are over a million sites that refer to articles on angiogenesis and 6000 of those are studies are specific to fucoidan. There are nearly 11,000 sites on fucoidan and apoptosis. These numbers are increasing every day. So, while we Westerners may not know the benefits of fucoidan, researchers around the world are racing to stay ahead of each other with new scientific studies.

According to Dr. Daisuke Tachikawa, author of Amazing Power of Fucoidan and Vice President of the Matsuzaki Memorial Hospital in Japan, fucoidan has the ability to induce apoptosis in cancer cells, enhance immunity, suppress angiogenesis and reduce the side effects of chemotherapy and radiation.

“Actually I did not believe in any dietary supplements before;” says, Dr. Tachikawa, “however fucoidan made me change my mind. I have been using fucoidan as a cancer treatment in Japan. Since I have used fucoidan, my patients began to smile again. The purpose of cancer treatment is not only to suppress or eliminate cancer, but also to maintain a good quality of life for patients and families. I am always pleased to see the smile back on their faces. Moreover, I am also very fortunate to hear patient’s joyful feedbacks when their tumor is suppressed and reduced and the side effects of chemo and radiation therapy are decreased. It is very important to treat patients effectively, to eliminate or moderate side effects.” [2]

So, what exactly is fucoidan?
The first isolation of fucoidan from seaweed was described over 100 years ago, and since then research has consistently increased. Even though the number of published studies in increasing constantly, only part of the information is accessible. About 70% of the publications are in English and a quarter written in Chinese, Japanese and Russian making them accessible to only a small number of researchers.

Seaweeds have been known to have pharmacological benefits since ancient times and “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (The Divine Farmer's Herb-Root Classic),” believed to be the oldest book on medicinal substances in China, mentions the ability of a seaweed, probably brown algea hondawara, to heal tumor.

Today, active research is conducted on fucoidan and various bioactive functions of fucoidan, such as “anti-cancer action,” “cholesterol-lowering action,” “blood-pressure-lowering action” and “anti-virus action,” have been revealed. Since the discovery of stem cells, research on the efficacy of fucoidan in stem cell research has grown.

Dr. Andrea Désirée Holtkamp in “Fucoidans and fucoidanases—focus on techniques for molecular structure elucidation and modification of marine polysaccharides”, published in Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, February 2009, writes, “The research field of fucoidans (sulphated polysaccharides from algae) and fucoidanases was strongly developing in recent years. Several different fucoidans and a few fucoidan-degrading enzymes were isolated and characterized. A high potential is seen in the medical exploitation of the fucoidans and its degradation products. This review gives an overview about the research of the last 5 years concerning fucoidan characterization and application as well as enzyme detection, characterization and production.

Extraction of fucoidan
According to Dr. Holtkamp of the Institute of Biochemistry and Biotechnology, Department of Biotechnology, Technical University of Braunschweig, Braunschweig, Germany, to get suitable amounts of fucoidan, the material has to be collected, washed, dried, extracted and freeze dried. However, if the extraction process is too harsh, the sulphation pattern which determines the therapeutic effect may be destroyed and the bio-activity will be lost. Fucoidan must be extracted by cold pressing rather than using heat.

Clinical use of fucoidan
Dr. Nobuyuki Takahashi, MD, PhD, Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill is the author of The Fourth Treatment for Medical Refugees, an in depth explanation of cancer and individual cases in which he used fucoidan either independently or in combination with traditional allopathic medicine.

Fucoidan is a well know supplement in Eastern medicine although it may have escaped the attention of most people in the west until the last decade. This molecule has a strong therapeutic effect on cancer. At the 55th Japanese Cancer Association’s meeting held in 1996, “Research on fucoidan’s anticancer effects” was published to tell the nation that fucoidan leads cancer cells into apoptosis while not damaging the normal cells.

If the effects of fucoidan are the same for all cancers, we may no longer have to fear any type of cancer at all. The reason that we say cancer is incurable is because cancer cells do not stop the replication process while normal cells are programmed to die when defects are detected within the cells and new cells replace them.

This process is called apoptosis. However, cancer cells do not go into the apoptosis process even when they are damaged unless they are induced to die. In addition, while normal cells die after they have replicated for a certain amount of cycles, cancer cells do not have the function that counts its replication cycles. Cancer cells do not take orders from external signals. That is why cancer cells do not stop the replication process.

How does fucoidan work?
Fucoidan is found in only a few of the thousands of varieties of seaweed. And not all fucoidan is alike, as they have different molecular weights. What we have seen is that low molecular weight fucoidan such as found in limu moui has a positive effect in both inducing apoptosis and anti-angiogenesis. When treating cancer, the goal is to eradicate tumor cells without damaging healthy cells and tissues. Most traditional treatments are so toxic to the entire body that the use of natural substances of low toxicity is of great interest. There are many in vitro and in vivo studies that demonstrate the strong anti-cancer ability of fucoidan. Since fucoidan also possesses immunomodulatory effects, it is postulated that it may have protective effects against development of side effects when it is co-administered with chemotherapeutic agents and radiation.

Fucoidan’s mechanisms of action:

• According to published studies, fucoidan induces apoptosis which may begin in as little as 72 hours.
• Encapsulates the tumor cells and cuts off blood flow (anti-angiogenesis)
• Increases killer T cells
• Anti-metastatic – Protects healthy cells from having the tumors attach and metastasize by repairing cell walls and DNA.
• Anti-proliferative - Cancer cells cannot reproduce
• Promotes stem cell growth – stem cells are cells which repair the body - http://www.google.com/patents/WO2013029034A1
• Boosts immunity giving the patient the reserve to fight the invading cancer.

“If we were able to completely remove cancer cells by surgery, cancer may not be so dangerous after all.” says Dr. Tachikawa. “However, since the cancer cells exist in every part of the body, it is important to induce apoptosis in cancer cells to prevent cancers from occurring in the first place. If cancer cells did not replicate, a simple immune therapy may be sufficient enough to kill cancer cells. If the replication process is inhibited, attacks on cancer cells will become extremely effective. Our body makes 3000 to 6000 cancer cells a day. However, not everyone gets a cancer mass because their immune system fights off cancer cells every day. Only when the immune system is compromised will these cancerous cells grow into a tumor mass. If we are able to induce the cancer cells’ apoptosis by taking fucoidan, we can stop the cancer cell replication processes within the body.”

Fucoidan is safe to combine with other therapies. Dr. Takahashi combines fucoidan therapy with thermotherapy which induces increases in metabolism, enzyme activity and immune function. Of course, a diet rich is anti-oxidant foods is also important. There are many, many natural treatments which should be included when battling cancer.

1. Yashimizu, N. (2009),The Fourth Treatment for Medical Refugees, Richway International, Inc., Honolulu, HI
2. Tachikawa, D. 92007) Amazing Power of Fucoidan, 3rd edition, Taiwan Dacom
3. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=fucoidan+hiv (23 studies on inhibition of HIV)
4. http://d-nb.info/994544340/34 (fucoidan - Epstein Barre Virus, Human Cytomegalovirus, Anti-coagulation, Anti-viral and Anti-fungal effects)
5. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/?term=fucoidan+skin (35 studies on skin including melanoma, collagen formation, dermatitis, wound healing in burns, diabetes and trauma (necrosis), hyperalgesia, inflammation & ischemia reperfusion)
6. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4413214/
7. https://news.virginia.edu/content/researchers-find-textbook-altering-link-between-brain-immune-system#sthash.9CvlgW6J.dpuf
8. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C_5Z31mUmtc Dr. William Li 2010 Ted Talk
9. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4413192/ Brain cancer fucoidan