Multiple Mechanisms of Anti-Cancer Effects Exerted by Astaxanthin

Mar Drugs. 2015 Jul 14;13(7):4310-30. doi: 10.3390/md13074310.


Astaxanthin (ATX) is a xanthophyll carotenoid which has been approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA) as food colorant in animal and fish feed. It is widely found in algae and aquatic animals and has powerful anti-oxidative activity. Previous studies have revealed that ATX, with its anti-oxidative property, is beneficial as a therapeutic agent for various diseases without any side effects or toxicity. In addition, ATX also shows preclinical anti-tumor efficacy both in vivo and in vitro in various cancer models. Several researches have deciphered that ATX exerts its anti-proliferative, anti-apoptosis and anti-invasion influence via different molecules and pathways including signal transducer and activator of transcription 3 (STAT3), nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) and peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma (PPARγ). Hence, ATX shows great promise as chemotherapeutic agents in cancer. Here, we review the rapidly advancing field of ATX in cancer therapy as well as some molecular targets of ATX.

Keywords: astaxanthin; cancer; molecular targets.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Gap Junctions / drug effects
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • NF-kappa B
  • Xanthophylls
  • astaxanthine