Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory polyphenol and the primary component in the spice turmeric and has been intensely studied by cancer researchers around the world. Although numerous studies have shown curcumin to have anti-cancer properties in the lab, it has limited utility as a cancer treatment because its low water solubility, short half-life and poor bioavailability make it hard for the body to use.
But new research suggests that there may be a way around the problem. In a newly published article, university researchers in Napoli and Messina, Italy explain how they created curcumin-loaded nanoparticles, transport particles sized between 1 and 100 nanometers, to help the cancer-fighter enter and destroy mesothelioma cells.
“Nanoparticles were made up of an amphiphilic blend of poloxamers and PLGA to confer stealth properties to the NPs to take advantage of the enhanced permeability and retention (EPR) effect,” explains author Laura Mayol, with the Interdisciplinary Research Centre on Biomaterials at Università di Napoli Federico II.
Mayol and her team experimented with different blends of copolymers to find the nano-sized curcumin delivery system that was most likely to be internalized by the mesothelioma cell line. Their research showed that the most effective NPs were able to block two important phases of the mesothelioma cell replication cycle for up to 72 hours, overcoming the cells’ normal resistance to curcumin.
Recent research has suggested that when curcumin is delivered along with cancer-fighting peptides, it may increase levels of an important protein inhibitor and slow the progression of mesothelioma. Another study found that a curcumin analog helped make mesothelioma cells more susceptible to chemotherapy.
Alternative drugs and drug delivery systems are of particular interest to researchers studying mesothelioma, a rare but aggressive cancer that is highly resistant to standard cancer treatments. As many as 2,500 people died of mesothelioma in the U.S. each year.
Mayol, L et al, “Curcumin loaded PLGA-poloxamer blend nanoparticles induce cell cycle arrest in mesothelioma cells”, March 17, 2015, European Journal of Pharmaceuticals and Biopharmaceuticals, Epub ahead of print.