Despite the increasing availability of new classes of cancer treatment, such as immune- and targeted therapies, there remains a need for the development of new antiproliferative/cytotoxic drugs with improved pharmacological profiles that can also overcome drug resistant forms of cancer. In this study, we have identified, and characterised, a novel marine polysaccharide with the potential to be developed as an anticancer agent. Sulphated polysaccharides isolated from the common cockle (Cerastoderma edule
) were shown to have antiproliferative activity on chronic myelogenous leukaemia and relapsed acute lymphoblastic leukaemia cell lines. Disaccharide and monosaccharide analysis of these marine polysaccharides confirmed the presence of glycosaminoglycan-like structures that were enriched in ion-exchange purified fractions containing antiproliferative activity. The antiproliferative activity of these glycosaminoglycan-like marine polysaccharides was shown to be susceptible to heparinase but not chondrotinase ABC digestion. This pattern of enzymatic and antiproliferative activity has not previously been seen, with either marine or mammalian glycosaminoglycans. As such, our findings suggest we have identified a new type of marine derived heparan sulphate/heparin-like polysaccharide with potent anticancer properties.
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