Astaxanthin & Cancer Literature Overview- 2020

Searching for natural Plant & Algae based therapeutics with anticancer properties is a rapidly growing area of science.  We are tracking the progress of several studies which are summarized here.

Many different classes of natural compounds have demonstrated anticancer properties, including many plant-based and marine-based extracts [1]. Astaxanthin (ASX) is a marine-based ketocarotenoid that has potent antioxidant characteristics [2].  ASX also has a variety of beneficial biological effects.  For example, ASX significantly and specifically inhibits breast cancer cell migration, reduces breast cancer cell numbers, and induces apoptosis in breast cancer cells, but not in normal breast epithelial cells [1].  Additionally, early-stage esophageal tumors in rats are significantly suppressed when treated with natural ASX, which increases antioxidant and anti-inflammation capacity [7].


Other astaxanthin putative biological effects:

  • ASX helps maintain cell membrane structure while other carotenoids cause disorder in membranes [3].
  • ASX has proven to decrease to both oxidative stress and inflammation in rats in a dose-dependent manner [4,5].
  • ASX has been able to inhibit inflammatory responses and oxidative stress via the activation of signaling pathways such as Nrf2-ARE in the brains of rats [4].
  • ASX increases brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF) protein levels, while concurrently decreasing oxidative stress levels in rats [5].
  • ASX decreases the amount of inflammatory markers in buffaloes such as TNF-_, IL-6, and IFN- via NF__ inhibition [6].
  • ASX inhibits the expression of inflammatory proteins NFkB and COX2 in rats [7].





[1] McCall B, McPartland CK, Moore R, Frank-Kamenetskii A, and Booth BW. Effects of astaxanthin on the proliferation and migration of breast cancer cells in vitro.  Antioxidants 2018, 7, 135; doi:10.3390/antiox7100135

 [2] Fassett, R.G.; Coombes, J.S. Astaxanthin, oxidative stress, inflammation and cardiovascular disease. Future Cardiol. 2009, 5, 333–342.

[3] Fassett, R.G.; Coombes, J.S. Astaxanthin: A potential therapeutic agent in cardiovascular disease. Mar. Drugs 2011, 9, 447–465.

[4] Feng, Y.; Chu, A.; Luo, Q.;Wu,M.; Shi, X.; Chen, Y. The protective effect of astaxanthin on cognitive function via inhibition of oxidative stress and inflammation in the brains of chronic T2DM rats. Front. Pharmacol. 2018, 9, 748.

[5] Wu, W.; Wang, X.; Xiang, Q.; Meng, X.; Peng, Y.; Du, N.; Liu, Z.; Sun, Q.; Wang, C.; Liu, X. Astaxanthin alleviates brain aging in rats by attenuating oxidative stress and increasing BDNF levels. Food Funct. 2014, 5, 158–166.

[6] Priyadarshini, L.; Aggarwal, A. Astaxanthin inhibits cytokine production and inflammatory gene expression by suppressing IkappaB kinase-dependent nuclear factor kappa B activation in pre and postpartum Murrah buffaloes during different seasons. Vet. World 2018, 11, 782–788.

 [7] Lingling C, Fan X, Minkai W, Li L, Tianyi Q, Han C, Zhonglei L, Changqing, S.      Dietary Natural Astaxanthin at an early stage inhibits n-nitrosomethylbenzylamine-induced esophageal cancer oxidative stress and inflammation via downregulation of NFkB and COX2 in F344 rats. OncoTargets and Therapy 2019, 12-5087-5096.