The promising nano-studies seem to be piling up these days. After the nanocurcumin/doxorubicin study (see my July 16 post), here’s another one, this time from the University of North Texas: http://goo.gl/PbsHd
As we can read in the abstract, these researchers combined curcumin and bortezomib (= Velcade), which are known to have synergistic effect in inhibition of growth of cancer, in a nano-formulation designed to go after the cancer cells located in the bone microenvironment.
Surprisingly, these two substances didn’t have any synergy against the bone destruction (= osteoclastogenesis) caused by the cancer cells. However, curcumin by itself had significant inhibition of osteclastogenic activity. Aha! Here is more proof that curcumin protects our bones…
Okay, let me take a quick look at the full study (not available for free online). There is a clear explanation of how cancer cells cause bone destruction. I’ll see if I can summarize it. What happens first is that cancer cells release cytokines such as RANKL and IL-6. This gets the osteoclasts all excited, so they start releasing other cytokines AND calcium (incidentally, that’s why we have to monitor our serum calcium and make sure it isn’t high; calcium = the “C” in CRAB), which help the cancer cells grow…
As the authors point out, it’s a vicious cycle: the cancer cells and the osteoclast cells keep partying and feeding one another inside our bone marrow. Another bad consequence is that this process eventually leads to drug resistance…
So, how can we put an end to all these problems—drug resistance, poor quality of life of the patients due to the side effects from the chemo drugs, cancer cell growth, bone destruction and so on? The authors suggest nano-intervention. Well, okay, they don’t call it nano-intervention. I did. 😉
Now, something that concerns me a bit about this study is the use of Alendronate, or Aln. To be honest, since I’ve never taken a bisphosphonate in my life, I didn’t know what this thing was until I looked it up: it’s Fosamax. I know what THAT is. Years ago, my Mom took Fosamax for several months (I forget how long) for her advanced osteoporosis. She quit taking it because the side effects were really getting to her. And even though, as I mentioned, that happened years ago, she still has trouble swallowing and almost chokes on her food, practically with every meal. It’s hard for us to watch her cough and choke and not be able to do anything to help. Well, perhaps Aln doesn’t have the same toxic effects if it’s NOT taken as an ORAL drug…(?). No idea.
Anyway, let’s go on. According to the authors, Aln has already been used, apparently successfully, to target the bone marrow microenvironment. In this study, it attaches itself to a nano-bubble that delivers a lovely dose of curcumin and bortezomib to the cancer cells inside the bone marrow. The obvious advantage of using Aln is that all this substance wants to do in life is hook up with a piece of bone. Therefore, once it is released into the bloodstream, it dashes off in search of a bone buddy.
The authors make the point that using this sort of nano-formulation might enable doctors to reduce the dose AND dosing frequency of chemo. That would be great, of course.
As you know, I hate any in vivo talk and am very much opposed to using animals in labs *…But the study talks about mice, and I just can’t ignore that part. So here goes.
Four groups of mice were injected with breast cancer cells: the control group, the nanoformulation with Aln group, the nanoformulation without Aln group and the plain, “free” bortezomib + curcumin group.
Results. The Aln-coated group was the most successful one (not as far as the dead mice are concerned, of course!). The curcumin/bortezomib nano-mixture reached the mice’s bone marrow cells quickly and stayed there longer compared to the other groups…
As for tumor growth, the regular curcumin/bortezomib group did better than the control group, but the two nano-groups showed SIGNIFICANT decreases in tumor growth.
Okay, let’s see if I can recap the study quickly:
- The authors stuck curcumin and bortezomib inside a sort of nano-bubble covered with bone-loving Aln.
- Because of the Aln, the bubble traveled at top speed towards the bone microenvironment, where it remained for quite some time, giving the drugs plenty of time to act.
- The curcumin/bortezomib mixture got released slowly and stopped the breast cancer cells from growing.
- It also significantly decreased tumor progression.
- In addition, curcumin alone inhibited bone destruction. All by itself.
- Smaller doses of chemo can apparently now be used to achieve the same effect, thus reducing toxic side effects and so on.
- That’s it, in a nutshell. Promising, don’t you think?
* By the way, on my birthday (July 18), see photo, the Italian authorities SHUT DOWN Green Hill, the appalling beagle puppy mill located in the town of Montichiari in Northern Italy. Finally. Starting tomorrow, the first of the 2500 (or so) Green Hill beagles are going to be handed over to carefully selected foster families with whom they will remain until the investigation against Green Hill has been completed. Of course, I hope that this awful place will be shut down for good and that all the dogs will remain with their new families. The poor dears have already been through so much. But right now, instead of talking about the 100 corpses found in the freezer at Green Hill and about all the other horrible stories that are beginning to come out in the Italian media, I’d rather focus on the positive news. Tomorrow, as I mentioned, the first beagles are going to leave their prison. A very happy day not just for the beagles but also for all the animal activists who have fought tirelessly for years to shut down Green Hill and give these dogs a better life…or rather, give them a life, period!
P.S. I’d like to get back to the nano-study for a moment. Here I read FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER that curcumin is a “chemotherapeutic agent.” Chemopreventive, yes, but chemotherapeutic? I was actually quite stunned, and had to rub my eyes for a second and re-focus before re-reading those words again. Yep. Curcumin is now officially a chemo agent! A non-toxic one, to boot! Right on!