Polysaccharides as potential anticancer agents-A review of their progress

Carbohydr Polym. 2019 Apr 15;210:412-428. doi: 10.1016/j.carbpol.2019.01.064. Epub 2019 Jan 29.


Cancer is one of the most common diseases seen in developed countries, with over 1.6 million new cases estimated in 2017, in the US alone. The current chemotherapeutic drugs available for the therapeutic management of cancer are associated with major adverse effects like alopecia, anemia, immunodeficiency, fatigue, peripheral neuropathy, fertility issues and neurological problems, to name a few of them. Polysaccharides have emerged as potential chemical entities exhibiting good anticancer activity across a variety of cancer cell lines and can be developed as alternatives of existing cancer chemotherapeutic agents, possessing selective activity against tumor cells with minimal toxic side-effects. Polysaccharides isolated from plants, fungi, microorganisms and marine sources have been reported to act on malignant cells, mainly via induction of apoptosis. They act via DNA damage, cell cycle arrest, disruption of mitochondrial membrane and production of nitric oxide, to kill cancer cells and prevent metastasis. This review focuses on the polysaccharides studied in the last five years, their proposed mechanism of action, and their anti-cancer activity in comparison to the drugs used in conventional anticancer chemotherapeutic regimen.

Keywords: Anticancer; Cell cycle arrest; Immunomodulation; Mitochondrial membrane depolarization; Nitric oxide pathway; Polysaccharides.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Humans
  • Immunomodulation / drug effects
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Nitric Oxide / biosynthesis
  • Polysaccharides / pharmacology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Polysaccharides
  • Nitric Oxide