New Way to Get Curcumin into Tumors
Conventional mesothelioma treatments can improve quality and length of life, but they do not offer a cure for the disease.
This leads some people to try complementary and alternative medicine, which may provide a sense of control with an overwhelming situation.
One popular substance promoted for its anti-cancer effects comes from the culinary spice turmeric. It’s called curcumin and is available in dietary supplements.
These dietary supplements haven’t translated into cancer treatments because curcumin is not well absorbed and likely doesn’t reach cancer cells when taken orally.
But a July 2018 study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences describes how scientists have used chemistry to improve curcumin’s ability to enter cancer cells.
This represents “an effective delivery system that transports Cur [curcumin] into the cancer cells,” the study’s authors wrote.
Curcumin Well Studied Against Cancer and Mesothelioma Cells
Thousands of scientific publications on turmeric and curcumin have been published in the past few decades. Many have focused on cancer.
Cell and animal studies have demonstrated curcumin can limit the growth of mesothelioma cells in laboratory settings.
A 2017 paper published in Oncotarget described how turmeric can curb mesothelioma cell growth. When applied directly to peritoneal mesothelioma in mice, it led to fewer and smaller tumors and longer life compared with mice not receiving the treatment.
Although these results are exciting, they highlight the problems with this approach. Unless curcumin is applied directly to mesothelioma cells, it isn’t likely to help patients with the disease.
It would be impossible for typical turmeric or curcumin supplements taken by mouth to reach mesothelioma tumors.
Solving the Curcumin Delivery Challenge
Dr. Dipanjan Pan oversees the Laboratory for Materials in Medicine at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where researchers tackled the problem of how to deliver curcumin to cancer cells more effectively.
“Curcumin is therapeutic, but the full effect can’t be utilized because it’s poorly soluble in water,” Dr. Pan noted in a press release.
Only water-soluble substances can be transported effectively in the bloodstream.
The researchers used a complex chemistry process to combine curcumin with the metal platinum. The new curcumin-platinum combination offered two important benefits:
It was now able to dissolve in water.
It was over 100 times more effective at treating cancer cells in the lab compared with platinum or curcumin alone.
Platinum is a good choice for improving the cancer-killing effects of curcumin.
Several approved chemotherapy medications are based on platinum, including cisplatin, carboplatin, oxaliplatin and nedaplatin.
As the study authors reported, the combination of platinum and curcumin was much more effective than either substance alone.
Curcumin and Mesothelioma Treatment
When used as recommended, curcumin supplements are considered safe for most people, but that doesn’t mean you should begin taking them.
Some supplements can worsen treatment side effects or render mesothelioma therapies less effective.
This is why cancer patients in active treatment should not take these products or other over-the-counter medications without discussing it with their oncologist first.
It’s also important to stick with your treatment plan. Cancer patients who opt to use alternative medicine instead of conventional therapies fare worse than patients who use approved cancer treatments.
Next Steps for Curcumin
While this new curcumin-platinum combination isn’t yet approved for use in humans, ClinicalTrials.gov lists dozens of investigations studying other forms of curcumin to treat cancer.
The number of studies shows researchers’ avid interest in curcumin. The newly created water-soluble form of curcumin is likely to make its way into clinical trials in the future as well.
Share This Article
9 Cited Article Sources
Datta, S. et al. (2018, August 7). Orthogonal self-assembly of an organoplatinum(II) metallacycle and cucurbituril that delivers curcumin to cancer cells. PNAS, 115, 8087-92.
Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1803800115
Cianciosi, D. et al. (2018, August 10). Targeting molecular pathways in cancer stem cells by natural bioactive compounds. Pharmacol Res, 135, 150-165. DOI: 10.1016/j.phrs.2018.08.006
Bachmeier, B.E. et al. (2018, June 9). The Role of Curcumin in Prevention and Management of Metastatic Disease. Int J Mol Sci, 19, pii: E1716. DOI: 10.3390/ijms19061716
Koon, M. (2018, August 6). Researchers discover method to deliver herbal supplement curcumin to cancer cells by solving its insolubility. Phys Org.
Retrieved from: https://phys.org/news/2018-08-method-herbal-supplement-curcumin-cancer.html
Prasad, S. and Aggarwal, B.B. (2011). Turmeric, the Golden Spice. In I. F.F. Benzie and S. Wachtel-Galor (Eds.), Herbal Medicine, 2nd edition, Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press/Taylor & Francis.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92752/
Masuelli, L. et al. (2017). Curcumin blocks autophagy and activates apoptosis of malignant mesothelioma cell lines and increases the survival of mice intraperitoneally transplanted with a malignant mesothelioma cell line. Oncotarget, 8, 34405–34422. DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.14907.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5470978/
Pouliquen D.L. et al. (2017). Evaluation of intracavitary administration of curcumin for the treatment of sarcomatoid mesothelioma. Oncotarget, 8, 57552–57573. DOI: 10.18632/oncotarget.15744.
Retrieved from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5593667/
Johnson, S.B. et al. (2017). Use of Alternative Medicine for Cancer and Its Impact on Survival. J Natl Cancer Inst, 110. DOI: 10.1093/jnci/djx145.
Retrieved from: https://academic.oup.com/jnci/article/110/1/121/4064136
- Skyler B. Johnson, S.B. et al. (2018, July 19). Complementary Medicine, Refusal of Conventional Cancer Therapy, and Survival Among Patients With Curable Cancers. JAMA Oncol, DOI:10.1001/jamaoncol.2018.2487