By Dr. Bob McCauley
Spirulina (SP) (Arthrospira platensis; previously Spirulina platensis) is a filamentous blue-green microalga (cyanobacterium) with potent dietary phytoantioxidant and anticancerous properties. We investigated the chemopreventive effect of SP against 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene (DMBA)-induced rat breast carcinogenesis, and further studied its underlying mechanisms of action in vitro. Remarkably, SP cleared DMBA-induced rat mammary tumors, which was clearly confirmed by morphological and histological methods. SP supplementation reduced the incidence of breast tumors from 87% to 13%. At the molecular level, immunohistochemical analysis revealed that SP supplementation reduced expression of both Ki-67 and estrogen α. More interestingly, molecular analysis in the in vitro experiments indicated that SP treatment inhibited cell proliferation by 24 hours, which was accompanied by increased p53 expression, followed by increased expression of its downstream target gene, Cdkn1a (alias p21 or p21(Waf1/Cip1)). In addition, SP increased Bax and decreased Bcl-2 expression, indicating induction of apoptosis by 48 hours after SP treatment. To our knowledge, this is the first report of in vivo chemopreventive effect of SP against DMBA-induced breast carcinogenesis in rat, supporting its potential use in chemoprevention of cancer.
 Ouhtit, A., et. al. (2014). Chemoprevention of rat mammary carcinogenesis by spirulina. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24269837
Spirulina platensis is a blue-green alga used as a dietary supplement because of its hypocholesterolemic properties. Among other bioactive substances, it is also rich in tetrapyrrolic compounds closely related to bilirubin molecule, a potent antioxidant and anti-proliferative agent. The aim of our study was to evaluate possible anticancer effects of S. platensis and S. platensis-derived tetrapyrroles using an experimental model of pancreatic cancer. The anti-proliferative effects of S. platensis and its tetrapyrrolic components [phycocyanobilin (PCB) and chlorophyllin, a surrogate molecule for chlorophyll A] were tested on several human pancreatic cancer cell lines and xenotransplanted nude mice. The effects of experimental therapeutics on mitochondrial reactive oxygen species (ROS) production and glutathione redox status were also evaluated. Compared to untreated cells, experimental therapeutics significantly decreased proliferation of human pancreatic cancer cell lines in vitro in a dose-dependent manner (from 0.16 g•L-1 [S. platensis], 60 μM [PCB], and 125 μM [chlorophyllin], p<0.05). The anti-proliferative effects of S. platensis were also shown in vivo, where inhibition of pancreatic cancer growth was evidenced since the third day of treatment (p < 0.05). All tested compounds decreased generation of mitochondrial ROS and glutathione redox status (p = 0.0006; 0.016; and 0.006 for S. platensis, PCB, and chlorophyllin, respectively). In conclusion, S. platensis and its tetrapyrrolic components substantially decreased the proliferation of experimental pancreatic cancer. These data support a chemopreventive role of this edible alga. Furthermore, it seems that dietary supplementation with this alga might enhance systemic pool of tetrapyrroles, known to be higher in subjects with Gilbert syndrome.
 Konickova, R., et. al. (2014). Anti-cancer effects of blue-green alga Spirulina platensis, a natural source of bilirubin-like tetrapyrrolic compounds. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24552870
 Pan, R., et. al. (2015). Spirulina phycocyanin induces differential protein expression and apoptosis in SKOV-3 cells. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26410814