Fucoxanthin, a Marine-Derived Carotenoid from Brown Seaweeds and Microalgae: A Promising Bioactive Compound for Cancer Therapy

Int J Mol Sci. 2020 Dec 4;21(23):9273. doi: 10.3390/ijms21239273.


Fucoxanthin is a well-known carotenoid of the xanthophyll family, mainly produced by marine organisms such as the macroalgae of the fucus genus or microalgae such as Phaeodactylum tricornutum. Fucoxanthin has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties but also several anticancer effects. Fucoxanthin induces cell growth arrest, apoptosis, and/or autophagy in several cancer cell lines as well as in animal models of cancer. Fucoxanthin treatment leads to the inhibition of metastasis-related migration, invasion, epithelial-mesenchymal transition, and angiogenesis. Fucoxanthin also affects the DNA repair pathways, which could be involved in the resistance phenotype of tumor cells. Moreover, combined treatments of fucoxanthin, or its metabolite fucoxanthinol, with usual anticancer treatments can support conventional therapeutic strategies by reducing drug resistance. This review focuses on the current knowledge of fucoxanthin with its potential anticancer properties, showing that fucoxanthin could be a promising compound for cancer therapy by acting on most of the classical hallmarks of tumor cells.

Keywords: DNA repair; EMT; angiogenesis; apoptosis; cancer; cell growth arrest; fucoxanthin; inflammation; invasion; migration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / chemistry
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / pharmacology
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Antineoplastic Agents / chemistry*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Aquatic Organisms / chemistry*
  • Autophagy / drug effects
  • Cell Cycle Checkpoints / drug effects
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • DNA Damage
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Microalgae / chemistry*
  • Molecular Structure
  • Seaweed / chemistry*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Xanthophylls / chemistry*
  • Xanthophylls / pharmacology*
  • Xanthophylls / therapeutic use


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Xanthophylls
  • fucoxanthin