Crocus sativus L. (saffron), was applied as a spice, food colorant and medicine since four millennia ago and has been used as a remedy for various maladies. In the last three decades, the anti-primary tumor properties of saffron and its main carotenoids, crocin and crocetin, have been well explored. Despite the fact that metastasis is the leading cause of death in cancer patients, the anti-metastatic potential of saffron and its carotenoids has been surveyed only this decade. This review aims to provide an unprecedented overview of the anti-metastatic effects of saffron, crocin and crocetin, and the mechanisms underlying these effects. Investigations on various cancers demonstrated the anti-migratory, anti-invasion, anti-angiogenic potentials of saffron and its carotenoids, as well as their effects suppressing cell-ECM adhesion and enhancing cell-cell attachment. Saffron and its carotenoids exert their impact through different mechanisms such as reduction of CD34 and suppression of Wnt/β-catenin, Ras/ERK, P38, DCLK1, EMT, matrix metalloproteinases and urokinases. Crocin displayed more effective anti-metastatic potency, in comparison with saffron extract and crocetin. The bioaccessibility/bioavailability, nontoxicity on normal cells, confirmed anti-tumor efficiency and the recent evidence on the anti-metastatic potential of saffron and its carotenoids, recommends them as a propitious multipotent dietary agent and herbal medicine.
Keywords: anti-invasion; anti-migration; crocetin; crocin; mechanism; saffron.