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Seaweed sugar has ‘anticancer’ properties that could lead to better outcomes in cancer treatment

A “non-toxic dietary plant sugar” known as L-fucose may be useful in improving the effectiveness of immunotherapy, according to a study published on Monday, January 23. Led by biologist Eric Lau, Ph.D., the team demonstrated how L-fucose, found in red and brown algae, can increase tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs).

TILs are immune cells in tumors that can recognize cancer cells and attack them, but are often not enough to suppress tumor growth.

Dr. Lau explained: “Total L-fucose levels in melanoma [cancerous] cells shrink and how cells use L-fucose changes during progression.

“However, we found that increasing L-fucose levels with dietary supplementation can suppress tumors.

“[Dietary addition of L-fucose] markedly increase TIL and improve the efficacy of some immunotherapies in our animal models.”

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He added: “In humans, higher levels of L-fucose in melanomas are associated with less aggressive disease and better response to therapy.”

Although immunotherapy has improved outcomes for many cancer patients, it does not work for everyone.

Dr. Lau and his team hope the research results, published in the journal Nature Cancer, will pave the way for more effective cancer treatments.

“We’ve taken our work one step further and found that oral L-fucose also enhances the activity of immunotherapy drugs in some of our melanoma models,” Dr. Lau added.

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Looking at three independent groups of cancer patients from three different cancer centers, they assessed whether L-fucose levels reflected the patients’ response to cancer treatment.

They found that patients who responded well to therapy tended to have higher levels of L-fucose in their tumors.

Thus, the team hypothesized that L-fucose levels could be potential biomarkers for predicting response to immunotherapy.

Dr. Lau said: “Our findings identify and define the molecular mechanism by which L-fucose regulates an important interface between melanoma and immune cells.

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“This mechanism could be exploited therapeutically by simply giving L-fucose, suggesting a provocative and almost counterintuitive possibility: the use of sugar to fight cancer.”

Registered dietitian Sade Mix has confirmed that adding seaweed to your diet can help your health in many ways, from weight loss to blood sugar levels.

Highly nutritious seaweeds are typically rich in protein, carbohydrates, fiber, minerals and polyunsaturated fatty acids.

In addition, seaweed contains beneficial nutrients, from vitamin C to iron.

There are studies showing that seaweed can help with diabetes as well as protect the heart.

How to eat more algae

Mix supports the idea that dried nori sheets used in sushi can be a good substitute for tortillas, bread and rolls.

Roasted seaweed with a little oil and salt can be another way to enjoy sea vegetables.

Alternatively, seaweed flakes can be placed on top of rice or quinoa, and seaweed can then be added to vegetable soup.

There is a chance that you will eat too much seaweed, which is linked to thyroid problems, so moderation is key.

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