Indian Spice Spices Up Cancer Treatment

Chemotherapy drug cisplatin plus a curcumin compound are a nice duo for treating cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Survival rates for head and neck cancer have not improved in the last 30 years. Most doctors believe the reason for this lack of improvement is cancer cells become resistant to chemotherapy drugs, such as cisplatin.

When researchers added an Indian spiced curcumin-based compound, called FLLL32, to head and neck cancer cell lines, they were able to improve outcomes by reducing the dose of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin by four times. By adding curcumin the therapy didn't encourage the cancer cell's resistance to therapy.

"A better head and neck cancer chemotherapy strategy is on the horizon."

Senior study author Thomas Carey, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology and pharmacology at the U-M Medical School and co-director of the Head and Neck Oncology Program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center commented that this work opens the possibility of using lower, less toxic doses of cisplatin to achieve an at least the same or possibly enhanced tumor kill rate.

Cells often become resistant to cisplatin, which forces doctors to use increasingly higher doses. Cisplatin is highly toxic, so often times it is difficult to survive the therapy. Those who do survive often have long-term side effects due in part to the high dosage needed.

FLLL32 is designed to sensitize cancer cells at a molecular level to the antitumor effects of cisplatin. This indian spiced compound targets a key type of protein called STAT3. This key protein is present at very high levels in about 82 percent of head and neck cancers.

This is significant as high levels of STAT3 are linked to problems with normal cell death processes.

Researchers need to get STAT3 off their game. The indian based compound FLLL32 seems to do just that. Curcumin inhibits STAT3 function, but it is not well-absorbed. FLLL32 was developed  to embrace the curcumin inhibiting STAT3 quality but be more amenable to the body.

This study used the FLLL32 only in cell lines in the laboratory.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 19, 2011
Last Updated:
May 23, 2011