A team of researchers from the Institute of Bioimaging and Molecular Physiology (Cnr-Ibfm) of the secondary office of Cefalù and of the Institute for the study of nanostructured materials (Cnr-Ismn) of the secondary office of Palermo, has explored the radiosensitizing potential of curcumin conjugated to lipid nanoparticles in human breast cancer cells. The study was published in Scientific Reports.
Curcumin, a nutraceutical substance extracted from the Curcuma longa plant and belonging to the polyphenol family, performs multiple pleiotropic effects (e.g. antibacterial, antifungal, antiviral, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory), and therapeutic useful for the prevention and treatment of various pathologies, including cancer, thanks to its ability to regulate several molecular targets, not yet fully known.
The results of the research carried out in collaboration between the two Cnr Institutes and the result of multidisciplinary skills, have been recently published in the journal Scientific Reports (Minafra L. et al., Sci Rep. 2019 Jul 31; 9 (1): 11134), where the authors highlighted the role of curcumin as a radiosensitizing molecule against cancer cells and its antioxidant properties, useful for reducing the adverse effects of ionizing radiation on healthy tissues.
A first important step developed by the authors was the creation of a molecule with optimized characteristics of bioavailability and stability, thanks to the use of solid lipid nanoparticles, taking into consideration the hydrophobic properties and the insolubility in water of the molecule, which make it difficult to absorb and biodistribute in the body. The different effects of curcumin carried by nanoparticles on cell survival were subsequently highlighted, through an in vitro approach using two breast cancer cell lines of different aggressiveness and receptor profile and a non-tumor mammary epithelial line, subjected to treatments with ionizing radiation . The curcumin's ability to reduce the levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS) induced by ionizing radiation was also highlighted, which are toxic to cells since they contribute to the onset of inflammatory and fibrotic processes. Furthermore, the authors have described through a 'homic' approach with 'high throughput' technologies the transcriptomic and metabolomic profiles induced differentially following the combined treatments with conveyed curcumin and ionizing radiation, highlighting the intracellular signaling pathways and the metabolic processes regulated in response to treatments, which revealed, among others, the anti-tumor and antioxidant effects of the curcumin carried.
The results of this study, which will be validated with further in vivo studies, may be the basis of future clinical trials with important implications in the optimization of radiotherapy protocols, thanks to the dual different roles of curcumin, being a radio-sensitizing molecule against cancer cells and exerting a protective action against the side effects of ionizing radiation.