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Fucoidan nanotechnology advancing cancer research

Abstract image of blue cancer cells

Nanoparticles, particles of 1 to 100 nanometres in size, have been shown to enhance the delivery or activity of existing compounds across many therapeutic applications. Nanotechnology has been successfully applied to commercially available applications such as sunscreen, wound dressings, and antimicrobial coatings on stent and catheter dressings. A variety of methods can be used to prepare nanoparticles, from solution based assembly through to physical breakdown.

New research involving Marinova’s Undaria pinnatifida fucoidan was recently conducted by Etman et al. Both fucoidan alone, and a nanoparticle formulation containing fucoidan, were tested for cytotoxic activity in pancreatic cancer cells in vitro. The fucoidan-containing nanoparticles exhibited a 2.3 fold increase in activity over the fucoidan alone, with the inhibition of migration also being observed.   

Enhanced delivery and effectiveness of nanoparticle treatments has also been observed by other groups working with different systems. Barbosa et al. recently combined methotrexate, a commonly used drug in psoriasis and rheumatoid arthritis treatment, with fucoidan-chitosan nanoparticles. This formulation of slightly larger particles (300-500nm) was able to permeate the skin more easily than methotrexate alone (up to a 3.3 fold increase), had a reduced cytotoxic activity compared to methotrexate alone, and inhibited inflammatory cytokine release. This strategy could be particularly useful for inhibiting psoriatic inflammation in the skin whilst limiting systemic exposure to methotrexate. 

A combination of fucoidan nanotechnology and checkpoint immunotherapy is now emerging as a highly successful cancer treatment. Chiang et al. for example, combined an immune checkpoint inhibitor with a fucoidan-dextran based magnetic nanomedicine. This combination increased median survival time in an animal model with a breast cancer cell line using less than 1% of the dose of the soluble checkpoint inhibitor. The particles could be guided magnetically to the tumour site, reducing systemic exposure. This highly promising approach has potential to reduce the costs of therapy and improve treatment outcomes.

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