A new drug delivery system using curcumin — the main ingredient in turmeric — successfully inhibits the growth of bone cancer cells, say scientists, including those of Indian origin.
The system developed by researchers at the Washington State University in the US also promotes the growth of healthy bone cells.
It could lead to better post-operative treatments for people with osteosarcoma, the second most prevalent cause of cancer death in children, according to the research published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces.
Young patients with bone cancer are often treated with high doses of chemotherapy before and after surgery, many of which have harmful side effects.
Turmeric has been used in cooking and as medicine for centuries in Asian countries, and its active ingredient, curcumin has been shown to have anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and bone-building capabilities.
It has also been shown to prevent various forms of cancers, researchers said.
“I want people to know the beneficial effects of these natural compounds,” said Susmita Bose, a professor at the Washington State University.
“Natural biomolecules derived from these plant-based products are inexpensive and a safer alternative to synthetic drugs,” Bose said.
However, when taken orally as medicine, the compound can’t be absorbed well in the body.
It is metabolised and eliminated too quickly.
The researchers, including Washington State University graduate student Naboneeta Sarkar, used 3D printing to build support scaffolds out of calcium phosphate.
While most implants are currently made of metal, such ceramic scaffolds, which are more like real bone, could someday be used as a graft material after bone cancer surgery.
The researchers incorporated curcumin, encapsulated in a vesicle of fat molecules into the scaffolds, allowing for the gradual release of the chemical.
They found that their system inhibited the growth of osteosarcoma cells by 96 per cent after 11 days as compared to untreated samples.
The system also promoted healthy bone cell growth.
“This study introduces a new era of integration — where modern 3D printing technology is coupled with the safe and effective use of alternative medicine, which may provide a better tool for bone tissue engineering,” said Bose.