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   Sep 02

Bubbles loaded with curcumin that could help to beat bowel cancer

Tiny fat bubbles loaded with a popular curry ingredient may help fight colon cancer.

Curcumin, the yellow pigment of turmeric – a plant from the ginger family often used to give curry its colouring – has been shown to slow the growth and spread of some cancers in early studies.

It has even been shown to kill various types of cancer cells in laboratory dishes. Furthermore, a study at the Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich found that the spice can boost the effectiveness of chemotherapy and make it better at killing bowel cancer cells.

While curcumin is not easily absorbed by cells in the colon, the bubbles are
However, scientists’ efforts to turn curcumin into a treatment have been hampered by problems getting enough of the spice to the tumours. Curcumin is hard for the body to absorb, so very big doses must be taken for even small amounts to reach the colon.

Previous clinical trials at the University of California, with standard curcumin supplements or pills, have shown that in some cases less than a quarter of the dose gets to the target.

Now, cancer specialists have developed a new way to get curcumin to where it is needed using exosomes – bubbles of fat – found in fruit plants.

Identified only a few decades ago, exosomes are structures within almost all types of cells that measure only 50 to 100 nanometers – about the size of the particles that make up smoke.

What is so attractive about exosomes to the scientists trying to turn curcumin into a viable treatment is that they have evolved to move and shuttle material between cells. Now researchers at the James Graham Brown Cancer Center in the U.S. are testing whether exosomes taken from fruit plants can be used to deliver the curcumin to tumours in the colon.

Curcumin, an active ingredient found in turmeric, has been linked with a range of potential health benefits

While curcumin is not easily absorbed by cells in the colon, the bubbles are. So wrapping the two together means the bubbles transport the curcumin into the colon tissue where it can attack the cancer. Scientists have developed a way to get the curcumin to stick to the fat bubbles by spinning them together in a centrifuge. The next step is to compare this method with other forms of delivering curcumin.

In the forthcoming trial, 35 people newly diagnosed with colon cancer who are scheduled for surgery will take curcumin daily for seven days in an oral supplement. One group will have curcumin mixed with plant exosomes, one with curcumin alone, and the third will have no treatment.

The effects on the three groups will then be compared. When the tumours are surgically removed one week after treatment, doctors will compare the concentration of curcumin in normal and cancerous tissue in patients from the groups.

Both fruit exosomes and curcumin are unlikely to generate any side-effects because they are consumed daily by millions of people.

Dr Emma Smith, senior science information officer at Cancer Research UK, said: ‘This clinical trial is at an early stage and must establish that this new technology is a safe way for people to be given curcumin. Clinical trials are still ongoing, and it will be interesting to see if this new way of delivering it directly to the tumour increases its potency.’

Meanwhile, a new vaccine is being tested that could help to prevent colon cancer.

The jab will prime the immune system to fight polyps, benign growths in the colon, which can turn into cancer over time.

Colon cancer takes years to develop and usually starts with a polyp, an abnormal growth in the intestinal lining. Although polyps can be removed, around 30 to 40  per cent of patients will develop a new one within three years.

The vaccine – MUC1 peptide- poly-ICLC – is being given to patients with newly diagnosed advanced colon polyps in a trial at Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and other centres to see if it prevents them from developing polyps in the future.

The vaccine targets a type of protein called MUC1, which encourages the growth of polyps and cancerous tumours.

Researchers say the vaccine could benefit those at high risk of colon cancer.

Source: Daily Mail

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