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Nanoparticles Loaded with Curcumin Can Kill Cancer Cells


Science may have found another amazing use for curcumin, the yellow-pigmented part of the spice turmeric. In a recent study published in the journal Nanoscale, researchers at Nemours Children’s Hospital and the University of Central Florida found that attaching curcumin to nanoparticles might be used to target and kill treatment-resistant neuroblastoma cells. The investigation displays a novel way of treating the most common cancer in infants.

This discovery is welcome, indeed, as 700 people are diagnosed with neuroblastoma in the U.S. each year, and most cases involve children younger than 5 years old. The cancers start in early nerve cells and typically form in the adrenal gland tissues. High-risk neuroblastoma is difficult to cure and is likely to recur or become resistant to remediation. Moreover, the cancers are associated with adverse effects following the end of a treatment regimen, such as hearing loss, developmental delays and other disabilities.

“High-risk neuroblastoma can be resistant to traditional therapy, and survival can be poor. This research demonstrates a novel method of treating this tumor without the toxicity of aggressive therapy that can also have late effects on the patient’s health,” said Tamarah J. Westmoreland, MD, PhD, a pediatric surgeon at Nemours Children’s Health System and senior author of the study. “Unique approaches to target tumor cells with nanoparticle delivery systems hold promise for treatment of resistant tumors, such as the high risk neuroblastoma. We are hopeful that in the future, nanoparticles can be utilized to personalize care to patients and reduce the late effects of therapy.”

Nanoparticle Delivery System of Curcumin Solves Solubility and Stability Challenges

Earlier studies show curcumin has impressive anticancer properties, but its poor solubility and stability present challenges to medicinal applications. Researchers in the recent study used nanoparticles to address these problems. They tested the nanoparticle delivery system of curcumin on cells of a high-risk type of neuroblastoma, known as MYCN-amplified, along with non-amplified neuroblastoma. The treatment induced substantial cell death of the cancer cells while causing little or no toxicity. It showed a stronger effect on MYCN-amplified cells, which are usually more resistant to drug therapy.

“This shows that nanoparticles can be an effective delivery vehicle for cancer drugs,” said Professor Sudipta Seal, who directs of UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center and Advanced Materials Processing Analysis Center, and is a collaborator on the study. “More research is needed, but we are hopeful it could lead to more effective treatment of this devastating disease in the future.”

What is the next step for the researchers? Now that they’ve obtained good results from the study using cells from children with neuroblastoma, they hope to test the treatment on mice with the same kind of tumors.

Nanoparticle Delivery System of Curcumin Is Advancing Medical Science

Nanoscience research, an investigation of the unique properties of materials on a nanoscale, has led to very useful discoveries in medicine and other fields. The size of the particles, which are no more than 100 nanometers, are quite small. In comparison, the thickness of a sheet of paper is 75,000 nanometers, a measurement that is 750 times larger.

Delivering curcumin through nanoparticles has been the focus of prior studies as well. In 2013, one study performed on rats found it might have potential for treating Alzheimer’s disease because it stimulated the production of neurons. In addition, a 2017 study discovered that the intervention shortened the treatment of tuberculosis. Similarly, other studies have found curcumin’s power can help reverse “incurable” brain disorders.

In the past 30 years, curcumin has been studied extensively and found to hold a broad range of health benefits.

Turmeric has been used in India for centuries as a medicine as well as a culinary ingredient. (Include this recipe in your meal plan to add a serving of turmeric in your diet).

An ever-expanding body of research shows turmeric has neuroprotective benefits.

Currently, curcumin’s limited bioavailability has posed a difficulty. The nanoparticle delivery system greatly increases the spice’s bioavailability, a breakthrough that should expand its usefulness in disease remediation.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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