Solubilized curcumin shrinks lung tumors in mice

By Lauretta Ihonor, medwireNews Reporter

Belgian researchers report that orally administered curcumin can reduce the size of lung cancer tumors in mice.

But as curcumin has poor solubility and bioavailability, its effect on lung cancer tumors occurs only when the turmeric-derivative is solubilized via binding to a cyclodextrin (CD) molecule, explain Didier Cataldo (University of Liege) and co-investigators.

They add: "Given our current data based on effects of curcumin-CD complexes on lung cancer development, one can hypothesize that curcumin could provide complementary effects to conventional therapeutics in order to reach maximum treatment efficiency in patients."

Cataldo and colleagues further highlight that the low toxicity of curcumin provides additional motivation for the role of the spice extract in lung cancer treatment to be explored further.

The researchers introduced CD-curcumin to in vitro lung epithelial tumor cell cultures and observed an overall reduction in cell numbers. This reduction was achieved via two changes: an increase in cell apoptosis rates and a decrease in cell proliferation rates.

In light of encouraging in vitro results, the researchers assessed the in vivo effects of the spice derivative by orally administering CD-curcumin, CD only, gemcitabine only, curcumin only, or CD-curcumin plus gemcitabine to mice implanted with lung tumors.

As reported in the British Journal of Cancer, a reduction in tumor size was seen only in the mice given CD-curcumin and CD-curcumin plus gemcitabine.

Of the two effective formulations, a greater reduction in tumor size was observed with the latter.

This indicates "that if curcumin alone was not sufficient in vivo to significantly decrease cell proliferation, its association with cytotoxic drugs would allow reaching maximal efficiency in lung cancer treatment schemes," remark Cataldo and team.

The researchers say that they are unsure of the mechanism that underlies the synergistic actions of CD-curcumin and gemcitabine. However, they suggest that the additive effects of curcumin on gemcitabine action may arise from curcumin-related inhibition of the pro-oncogenic transcription factor kB, which many chemotherapeutic agents inappropriately activate.

Cataldo and co-investigators conclude that further study is required to better understand the anticancer properties of curcumin.

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