• R-Roh

Advanced formulation of curcumin to prevent breast cancer from spreading to the bones

Start Year: 2016
Finish Year: 2017
Chief Investigator: Dr Ramin Rohanizadeh
Grant Type: Innovator Grant
Institution: University of Sydney

In one third of women diagnosed with breast cancer the primary tumour metastasises (spreads) to distant organs, most commonly the bone. Once breast cancer spreads to the bones it is incurable, so there is a critical need for a preventative treatment against bone metastasis.

This research project aims to develop a natural-based and relatively non-toxic agent to reduce the risk and burden of breast cancer bone metastasis, and effectively reduce cancer-related skeletal complications, to significantly increase the life expectancy and quality of life of women with advanced breast cancer.

Curcumin, a potent but non-toxic plant extract (the active ingredient of turmeric) has recently attracted much attention in medicine due to its remarkable therapeutical value, such as anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial properties.

Dr Rohanizadeh’s team has previously demonstrated that curcumin’s anti-cancer activities are significantly improved when it is formulated into nanoparticles (tiny particles used to deliver targeted treatments). In this project, he intends to extend this research by investigating the combination therapy of curcumin and bisphosphonates.

Bisphosphonates are agents that are well-known for their strong binding affinity to the calcium of the bones and effective slowing of the bone renewal process. This is important for cancer treatment, because slowing the process of bone renewal also slows cancer cell growth. Bisphosphonates are well-tolerated in people and commonly used to treat osteoporosis and as a palliative treatment in patients who have already been diagnosed with metastatic bone cancer.

This is the first time that this type of combination therapeutic agents has been proposed to prevent bone metastasis in breast cancer patients. Preventing breast cancer bone metastasis using these novel bisphosphonate-curcumin nanoparticles has two advantages: i) the nanoparticles will kill breast cancer cells lodged in bone; and ii) they slow the renewal process of bone that attracts and stimulates cancer cells.

If successful, this combination will be safe, effective, natural-based and non-toxic preventative therapy for deadly metastatic breast cancer. It could also prove a popular choice for patients preferring more natural therapies.