Nav: Home

Solving its insolubility, researchers discover method to deliver curcumin to cancer cells

August 06, 2018

In India and other countries in Southeast Asia, curcumin is often used as a spice in cooking, particularly chicken or fish. It is known for its therapeutic effect and as a way to kill germs present in raw meet. Recently, scientists have also discovered that curcumin, a naturally occurring substance isolated from the Curcuma long plant, to be an effective agent for killing cancer cells.

"Until now, however, curcumin is what we call in pharmaceutical science as a 'false lead' - it is therapeutic, but the full effect can't be utilized because it's poorly soluble in water," noted Dipanjan Pan, an associate professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who leads the Laboratory of Materials in Medicine.

"When you try to deliver a drug, it requires solubility in water, otherwise it won't flow through the bloodstream," added Santosh Misra, a post-doctoral researcher working with Pan.

Recently, however, Pan's laboratory collaborated with Peter Stang, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of American Chemical Society, and Distinguished Professor of chemistry at the University of Utah on ways to be able to render curcumin soluble, deliver it to infected tumors, and kill cancer cells. The team has created a sophisticated metallocyclic complex using platinum that has not only enabled curcumin's solubility, but whose synergy has proven 100 times more effective in treating various cancer types such as melanoma and breast cancer cells than using curcumin and platinum agents separately. They published their results in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

"It's a combination of clever chemistry and nanoprecipitation utilizing host guest chemistry," Pan explained. "We know that a drug is going to bind to a certain 'host molecule' if the proper pocket is present. We have shown here that a pumpkin-shaped macrocyclic molecule Cucurbituril by virtue of its glycoluril monomeric linkages, that attracts curcumin, which gets bound and comes off once it gets delivered to the cell. That is the key to demonstrating the effectiveness of the therapy and in solving a long-standing problem with curcumin's insolubility."

"In order to make it available to the system, it was necessary to put curcumin in a larger complex where it can be soluble in water," Misra said. "This complex has a very unique ability to take on different forms of material -- from a spherical nanoparticle to longer elongated threads of nanometer size. In both cases, curcumin is present in the system, which what is important for to its medicinal value."

"We knew platinum is a commonly used cancer therapeutic agent in the clinic," Pan said in explaining the road to discovery. "We wanted to exploit that property as well in addition to curcumin. Our results demonstrate that curcumin works completely in sync with platinum and exert synergistic effect to show remarkable anticancer properties."

The team detailed a hierarchical approach to solubilize a hydrophobic anti-cancer drug, curcumin in water via a combination of coordination-driven self-assembly and host-guest interactions.

The team detailed a hierarchical approach to solubilize a hydrophobic anti-cancer drug, curcumin in water via a combination of coordination-driven self-assembly and host-guest interactions.

Curcumin has shown to prevent the phosphorylation of STAT3, a well-known signaling pathway that triggers the growth of cancer cells and allows them to survive, in in vivo studies. The platinum-curcumin combination kills the cells by fragmenting its DNA.

Although the researchers have only tested the method in delivering curcumin, its contribution to cancer treatment will ultimately also come from the likelihood the method will work with other drugs as well.

"In cancer therapy, one of the measures that constrains a number of the drugs is their poor solubility," Pan said. "Viability only becomes prominent when the drug becomes soluble in water. So, no matter how the drug is given, intravenously or orally, it needs to eventually be absorbed by the organs in the body."

Pan's team also hopes to prove that this method will be effective in killing cancer stem cells, in effect cancer's root system.

"More and more it is becoming obvious that cancer stem cells are responsible for all these cancers to regrow," Pan said. "Even if you are killing all the cells in the tumor, there would be a tiny population of cells with 'stemness' properties that could enable cancer cells to grow back and spread to other parts of the body. That is why even if a patient has been declared cancer free, doctors continue to monitor to see if cells regrow. However, if we can deliver therapy to cancer stem cells, we can prevent that from happening. As an ongoing research in our laboratory to find agents for stopping the growth of cancer stem cells, we will be looking into using these highly sophisticated self-assembled metallacycles for targeted therapies"
-end-


University of Illinois College of Engineering

Related Cancer Cells Articles:

New way to target some rapidly dividing cancer cells, leaving healthy cells unharmed
Scientists at Johns Hopkins Medicine and the University of Oxford say they have found a new way to kill some multiplying human breast cancer cells by selectively attacking the core of their cell division machinery.
Breast cancer cells use message-carrying vesicles to send oncogenic stimuli to normal cells
According to a Wistar study, breast cancer cells starved for oxygen send out messages that induce oncogenic changes in surrounding normal epithelial cells.
Breast cancer cells turn killer immune cells into allies
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have discovered that breast cancer cells can alter the function of immune cells known as Natural killer (NK) cells so that instead of killing the cancer cells, they facilitate their spread to other parts of the body.
Breast cancer cells can reprogram immune cells to assist in metastasis
Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center investigators report they have uncovered a new mechanism by which invasive breast cancer cells evade the immune system to metastasize, or spread, to other areas of the body.
Engineered immune cells recognize, attack human and mouse solid-tumor cancer cells
CAR-T therapy has been used successfully in patients with blood cancers such as lymphoma and leukemia.
New liver cancer research targets non-cancer cells to blunt tumor growth
'Senotherapy,' a treatment that uses small molecule drugs to target ''senescent'' cells, or those cells that no longer undergo cell division, blunts liver tumor progression in animal models according to new research from a team led by Celeste Simon, PhD, a professor of Cell and Developmental Biology in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania and scientific director of the Abramson Family Cancer Research Institute.
Drug that keeps surface receptors on cancer cells makes them more visible to immune cells
A drug that is already clinically available for the treatment of nausea and psychosis, called prochlorperazine (PCZ), inhibits the internalization of receptors on the surface of tumor cells, thereby increasing the ability of anticancer antibodies to bind to the receptors and mount more effective immune responses.
Engineered bone marrow cells slow growth of prostate and pancreatic cancer cells
In experiments with mice, researchers at the Johns Hopkins Kimmel Cancer Center say they have slowed the growth of transplanted human prostate and pancreatic cancer cells by introducing bone marrow cells with a specific gene deletion to induce a novel immune response.
First phase i clinical trial of CRISPR-edited cells for cancer shows cells safe and durable
Following the first US test of CRISPR gene editing in patients with advanced cancer, researchers report these patients experienced no negative side effects and that the engineered T cells persisted in their bodies -- for months.
Zika virus' key into brain cells ID'd, leveraged to block infection and kill cancer cells
Two different UC San Diego research teams identified the same molecule -- αvβ5 integrin -- as Zika virus' key to brain cell entry.
More Cancer Cells News and Cancer Cells Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Debbie Millman: Designing Our Lives
From prehistoric cave art to today's social media feeds, to design is to be human. This hour, designer Debbie Millman guides us through a world made and remade–and helps us design our own paths.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#574 State of the Heart
This week we focus on heart disease, heart failure, what blood pressure is and why it's bad when it's high. Host Rachelle Saunders talks with physician, clinical researcher, and writer Haider Warraich about his book "State of the Heart: Exploring the History, Science, and Future of Cardiac Disease" and the ails of our hearts.
Now Playing: Radiolab

Insomnia Line
Coronasomnia is a not-so-surprising side-effect of the global pandemic. More and more of us are having trouble falling asleep. We wanted to find a way to get inside that nighttime world, to see why people are awake and what they are thinking about. So what'd Radiolab decide to do?  Open up the phone lines and talk to you. We created an insomnia hotline and on this week's experimental episode, we stayed up all night, taking hundreds of calls, spilling secrets, and at long last, watching the sunrise peek through.   This episode was produced by Lulu Miller with Rachael Cusick, Tracie Hunte, Tobin Low, Sarah Qari, Molly Webster, Pat Walters, Shima Oliaee, and Jonny Moens. Want more Radiolab in your life? Sign up for our newsletter! We share our latest favorites: articles, tv shows, funny Youtube videos, chocolate chip cookie recipes, and more. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.