Seaweed Extract Holds Promise as Lymphoma Treatment
Seaweed offers the widest range of minerals of any food, as well as plant compounds called lignans, which have cancer-protective properties. New research presented at a recent cancer conference notes that seaweed extract holds promise as a treatment for lymphoma, a disease classified into Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s types.
Approximately 75,000 people in the United States were diagnosed with lymphoma in 2009, according to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, making it the seventh most common cancer in males and females in America. It is much more common in adults older than 60, and it tends to affect men more than women.
Lymphoma is a type of blood cancer that develops when white blood cells called lymphocytes, which are integral in fighting infection and disease, begin to act abnormally. This abnormal activity can occur in many parts of the body, including the lymph nodes, bone marrow, blood, or other organs.
Nearly 90 percent of lymphoma cases are non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, distinguished from the less common Hodgkin’s lymphoma by the traits of the cancer cells. Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma can be divided into either slow-growing or fast-growing types, and they can be formed from either B-cells or T-cells.
About 10 percent of lymphoma cases are Hodgkin’s type. Hodgkin’s lymphoma is characterized by abnormal cells called Reed-Sternberg cells and is seen more often in adolescents and young adults.
New Seaweed Research
Mohammad Irhimeh, PhD, assistant professor of hematoncology and stem cells at the Hashemite University in Jordon, noted that “some forms of B-cell lymphoma are especially resistant to standard treatment and thus new therapies are needed.” He and his colleagues presented new research at the second AACR Dead Sea International Conference on Advances in Cancer Research held March 7-10.
In their research they used a commercial seaweed extract to treat lymphoma cells and discovered that the extract inhibited the growth of lymphoma cells while leaving healthy cells alone.
Seaweeds contain fucoidan, a sulfated polysaccharide located in the cell walls of many species of brown seaweed. Previous research has shown that fucoidan has antitumor and antiangiogenic (meaning it prevents the growth of new blood vessels, which nourish cancer cells) properties.
Irhimeh and his colleagues at the University of California, Berkeley, and Royal Hobart Hospital in Australia, also observed indications that the seaweed extract was associated with apoptosis, a process by which cells essentially commit “suicide.”
The findings of this study regarding the activity of seaweed extract on lymphoma cells have prompted the investigators to look forward to additional research with the goal of conducting phase II or III clinical trials. Seaweed extracts hold promise of a new treatment approach for the tens of thousands of people who have or who will be diagnosed with lymphoma. More information about lymphoma can be found at the Lymphoma Research Foundation.
American Association for Cancer Research, news release Mar. 10, 2010
The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Lymphoma Research Foundation
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center