Fucoidan, a natural component of seaweeds, is reported to have immunomodulatory and anti-tumor effects. The mechanisms underpinning these activities remain poorly understood. In this study, the cytotoxicity and anti-tumor activities of fucoidan were investigated in acute myeloid leukemia (AML) cells. The human AML cell lines NB4, KG1a, HL60, and K562 were treated with fucoidan and cell cycle, cell proliferation, and expression of apoptotic pathways molecules were analyzed. Fucoidan suppressed the proliferation and induced apoptosis through the intrinsic and extrinsic pathways in the acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) cell lines NB4 and HL60, but not in KG1a and K562 cells. In NB4 cells, apoptosis was caspase-dependent as it was significantly attenuated by pre-treatment with a pan-caspase inhibitor. P21/WAF1/CIP1 was significantly up-regulated leading to cell cycle arrest. Fucoidan decreased the activation of ERK1/2 and down-regulated the activation of AKT through hypo-phosphorylation of Thr(308) residue but not Ser(473). In vivo, a xenograft model using the NB4 cells was employed. Mice were fed with fucoidan and tumor growth was measured following inoculation with NB4 cells. Subsequently, splenic natural killer (NK) cell cytotoxic activity was also examined. Oral doses of fucoidan significantly delayed tumor growth in the xenograft model and increased cytolytic activity of NK cells. Taken together, these data suggest that the selective inhibitory effect of fucoidan on APL cells and its protective effect against APL development in mice warrant further investigation of fucoidan as a useful agent in treatment of certain types of leukemia.
© 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.