Marketers and producers of the bright-yellow spice, turmeric, will be happy to learn that scientists have figured out how one of its major components can help fight cancer. One can see the marketing campaign now: “Put more turmeric in your food — You’ll be cancer-free.”
Perhaps that’s stretching the truth a bit. But researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Center of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence have created a polymer nanoparticle incorporating curcumin — a major component of turmeric — that overcomes tumor resistance to a common anticancer agent. The nanoparticle also protect the heart against drug-triggered damage, reports PhysOrg.
Researchers have known that curcumin can overcome the body’s resistance to multiple anticancer agents that many tumors develop over time. The problem is that curcumin is poorly soluble in the bloodstream and thus cannot be absorbed by cancer cells.
The approach Anirban Maitra, a principal investigator on the project, took to solve the dilemma was to use polymer nanoparticles to deliver curcumin to the tumors. In a paper published in the journal, Oncotarget, the scientists discussed how they prepared a polymer nanoparticle containing both curcumin and doxorubicin, a common anticancer agent.
PhysOrg explains further what the research revealed:
Both in vitro and animal tests demonstrated that this formulation had striking anticancer activity in models of multiple myeloma, leukemia, and prostate and ovarian cancers. Perhaps equally important, the animals treated with the nanoparticle did not experience any cardiac toxicity or bone marrow suppression, even at cumulative doses that normally trigger cardiac toxicity by free doxorubicin or liposome-encapsulated doxorubicin, which was the first nanoparticle drug approved for use in treating cancer in humans and is widely used in treating breast cancer.
Further examination of the formulation revealed another benefit, researchers say. Encapsulating doxorubicin, which has been found to sometimes cause disease of the heart muscle, in a nanopolymer spared the heart muscle from stress.
Source: “Polymer nanoparticles overcomes anticancer drug resistance,” PhysOrg, 8/17/12
Image by Surya Prakash.
Dale McGeehon has been a journalist and editor for more than 25 years, covering chemical regulation and testing for Pesticides and Toxic Chemical News and innovations in material sciences for the National Technology Transfer Center. His writing credits include Omni and College Park magazines and The New York Times.