Researchers advance in a formula that prevents recurrence and cancer metastasis

By using a nanoemulsion based on curcumin (isolated from turmeric), researchers at the Advanced Center for Chronic Diseases (ACCDiS) conducted experiments with a formula that completely inhibited recurrence and tumor metastasis in animal models of cancer. Currently, the team is seeking for financial support to perform clinical trials that will allow to continue with the evaluation of this technology in different types of cancer.

Turmeric has more benefits than just food flavoring: This plant possess anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, but unfortunately, they cannot be fully leveraged, because of the instability and insolubility of curcumin in water, one of the main active ingredients of turmeric. This issue limits the biological effect of the molecule when ingested orally.

On that basis, a group of researchers from the Advanced Center for Chronic Diseases (ACCDiS) at the University of Chile, led by Dr. Andrew Quest (Faculty of Medicine) and by Dr. Felipe Oyarzún (Faculty of Chemical Sciences and Pharmacy) developed a nanoemulsion based on curcumin to promote the anti-cancerogenic effects of the molecule.

As explained by Dr. Oyarzún, they developed “a nanoemulsion (a minuscule drug), in which curcumin is dissolved and protected to allow for an efficient administration by any route”.

“The solution was generated by emulsifying and encapsulating curcumin in the core of a nanostructure“, detailed Dr. Andrew Quest. “Additionally, this formula can be transformed into a powder, and after resuspension in water, it could be administered without problems” added the researcher. “Thus, our formula is a very promising product that can also be preserved for a long time, in terms of storage”.

In this study, the application of the nanoemulsion was subcutaneous, since the tissue in the study generated a very resistant tumor. The researchers surgically removed the tumor, applied a dose of the nanoformulation and closed the wound. In regular conditions of skin cancer (melanoma), in which the experiments were mainly done, the primary tumor is able to reappear and proliferate in other parts of the body after being removed, which is the main death cause produced by skin cancer. This recurrence and proliferation features were stopped by using a single dose of the curcumin nanoemulsion, preventing recurrence and metastasis in 100% of the treated animals. On untreated cases, 70% of the cases had tumor recurrence and metastasis.

Continuing with the exploration of curcumin potential

“We would like to test our nanomedication in other cell lines, in other animal models and also in humans», pointed Dr. Oyarzún, “because we think that this formulation will have a significant impact in cancer treatment”. For this reason, the main researchers will like to convoke public and private investors to support this innovative and promising discovery, which involves very high economic costs to go to the next steps.

Currently, they have already applied for a preliminary patent in the United States and contacted practitioners from Chilean public hospitals: “We went to the San Borja Arriarán Hospital (Santiago, Chile) and we gave a talk about our findings to digestive surgeons. They got really motivated about our discovery and they are willing to try our formulation with their patients, but it cannot be currently done because of financial issues”, explained Dr. Oyarzún. “In addition, we would like to analyze if the anti-tumorigenic properties of curcumin are similar in all metastatic tumours, or at least, to elucidate in which of them is more effective”