Skip to nav Skip to content

In the past few years, immunotherapy treatment has been shown to improve outcomes for many cancer patients, including melanoma. Although it has proven successful in treating certain types of cancers, immunotherapy works for only a subset of patients. Numerous research studies are in effect to improve responses, including focusing on enhancing tumor-infiltrating lymphocytes (TILs). TILs are immune cells in tumors that can recognize and attack the cancer cells. Often there aren’t enough TIL cells or they’re unable to harness a strong enough response to durably suppress tumor growth and spread.

Moffitt Cancer Center researchers, led by cancer biologist Eric Lau, Ph.D., have identified a relatively natural way to increase the numbers and antitumor activities of TILs. In a new article published in Nature Cancer, Lau’s team demonstrates how L-fucose, a nontoxic dietary plant sugar that is enriched in red and brown seaweeds, can increase TILs, promote antitumor immunity and improve the efficacy of immunotherapy.

Sugar molecule L-fucose, can be made in our own cells through the breakdown and conversion of other molecules. This is important for both immune and developmental processes, while abnormalities with L-fucose synthesis and usage are associated with diseases including cancer.

“Overall levels of L-fucose in melanoma cells decrease and how the cells use L-fucose changes during progression. However, we have found that raising L-fucose levels via dietary supplementation can suppress tumors, markedly increase TILs and enhance the efficacy of some immunotherapies in our animal models. In humans, higher levels of L-fucose in melanomas are associated with less aggressive disease and better responses to therapy,” said Lau, lead study author and assistant member of the Tumor Biology Department at Moffitt.

Read the full article in Nature Cancer

If you'd like to refer a patient to Moffitt Cancer Center, complete our online form or contact a physician liaison for assistance. As part of our efforts to shorten referral times as much as possible, online referrals are typically responded to within 24 - 48 hours.