Journal of Cancer Research and Clinical Oncology

, Volume 145, Issue 2, pp 293–301 | Cite as

The anticancer effects and mechanisms of fucoxanthin combined with other drugs

  • Zhengchao Wang
  • Hongmei Li
  • Minghao Dong
  • Pengfei ZhuEmail author
  • Yu CaiEmail author
Review – Cancer Research



Fucoxanthin (Fx) is a characteristic carotenoid present in brown seaweed that has been shown to have various benefits, including anticancer effects. In vitro studies demonstrated these various effects, including the suppression of cell viability, the promotion of apoptosis, and antiangiogenic, antiproliferative, and antimetastatic activity. Interestingly, combinations of Fx with other drugs have better effects than either Fx or other drugs alone. Although the antiproliferative and cancer prevention activities of the combination of Fx and other drugs are still unclear, several effects have been discovered, including the induction of apoptosis, cell cycle arrest at G1/G0, enhanced gap junctional intercellular communication, and the induction of autophagy via various mechanisms, such as decreasing P-gp, activating the CYP3A4 promoter, increasing reactive oxygen species and cellular uptake and suppressing the PI3K/Akt/NFκB pathway. In this review, we address the anticancer effects and mechanisms of the combination of Fx and other drugs in different types of cancer.


The relevant literature from PubMed and Web of Science databases is reviewed in this article.


Fx combined with other drugs could enhance the effect of both Fx and the other drug or reduce the dose without reducing the effect, which may create more effective and less harmful therapeutic strategies.


Fx combined with other drugs has significant anticancer effects by various mechanisms and could be a potential therapeutic strategy for different types of cancer.


Fucoxanthin Troglitazone 5-Fluorouracil Pregnane X receptor Imatinib 





Protein kinase B


Mammalian target of rapamycin


B-cell lymphoma 2


c-Jun N-terminal kinases


Janus kinases


Signal transducer and activator of transcription protein family


Nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells


Mitogen-activated protein kinase




Pregnane X receptor


Cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor 1


Peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor γ

ABC transporters

ATP-binding cassette transporters


Multidrug resistance protein










Reactive oxygen species


Bcl-2-associated X protein


Growth arrest and DNA-damage-inducible protein


Cyclin-dependent kinase




Cytochrome P450 3A4


Steroid receptor coactivator-1


Excision repair cross complementation 1


Thymidine phosphorylase


Extracellular signal-regulated kinase


Phosphoinositide 3-kinase


Adult T-cell leukemia


X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis protein


Cellular inhibitor of apoptosis protein 2


Nuclear factor of kappa light polypeptide gene enhancer in B-cell inhibitorα


B-cell lymphoma-extra large


Chronic myelogenous leukemia


Breakpoint cluster region protein


Abelson murine leukemia viral oncogene homolog




Phosphatase and tensin homolog


Tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand


Tumor necrosis factor



We thank Rong Xu, Jiaxiong Ming, Huan Zhang, Yuyue Zuo, Department of Pharmacology, School of Basic Medicine, Tongji Medical College, Huazhong University of Science and Technology, for advice on the article.


This study was funded by National Natural Science Foundation of Wuhan (Grant no. WX18Q21 to YC).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

Authors declare that he/she have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

All applicable international, national, and/or institutional guidelines for the care and use of animals were followed.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Rehabilitation, Wuhan Fourth Hospital, Puai Hospital, Tongji Medical CollegeHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanChina
  2. 2.Department of Pharmacology, School of Basic Medicine, Tongji Medical CollegeHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanChina
  3. 3.Tongji Hospital, Tongji Medical CollegeHuazhong University of Science and TechnologyWuhanChina
  4. 4.Medical Examination CenterZibo Sixth Hospital, Zibo Prevention and Treatment Hospital for Occupation DiseasesZiboChina

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