Using Spice-based Compound To Kill Cancer Cells

Posted on August 19, 2008  Comments (2)

Synthetic molecules, derived from curcumin, a naturally occurring compound found in the spice turmeric have been killed cancer cells, in lab settings. Centuries of anecdotal evidence and recent scientific research suggest curcumin has multiple disease-fighting features, including anti-tumor properties. However, when eaten, curcumin is not absorbed well by the body. Instead, most ingested curcumin in food or supplement form remains in the gastrointestinal system and is eliminated before it is able to enter the bloodstream or tissues.

James Fuchs, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at Ohio State University and principal investigator on the project, and colleagues are continuing to refine compounds that are best structured to interact with a few overactive proteins that are associated with cell activity in breast and prostate cancers. Blocking these molecular targets can initiate cell death or stop cell migration in the cancers.

A major component of their strategy is called structure-based, computer-aided design, a relatively new technology in the drug discovery field. Before ever working with an actual compound, the scientists can make manipulations to computer-designed molecules and observe simulated interactions between molecules and proteins to predict which structural changes will make the most sense to pursue.

“Most of the interaction between our compound and the overactive protein comes from what are called hot spots on the protein’s surface,” said Chenglong Li, assistant professor of medicinal chemistry and pharmacognosy at Ohio State and an expert in computational chemistry. “For each spot, we can design small chemical fragments and link them together to make a molecule. This is what computer-aided design and modeling can do.”

Some of the most effective compounds have been tested for their effectiveness against human cancer cell lines – as well as whether they might be toxic to healthy cells. So far, the molecule favored by the researchers has a nearly 100-fold difference in toxicity to cancer cells vs. healthy cells, meaning it takes 100 times more of the compound to kill a healthy cell than it does to kill a cancer cell.

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2 Responses to “Using Spice-based Compound To Kill Cancer Cells”

  1. Paul
    August 19th, 2008 @ 9:36 am

    That’s interesting. It seems like so much of the cancer fight is aimed at the curative, after the fact. I’ve read a lot lately on the preventative nature of diet change. That’s been really fascinating. And I’ve also seen some really cool stuff on nano-globules of gold that can “infect” cancer cells. I think it’s because their walls are more porous. In any case, clinicians can then douse the body with infrared. The cancer cells are heated to point of death, while healthy cells are fine.

  2. annakat
    August 24th, 2008 @ 12:57 am

    There are some interesting in roads in the fight against cancer being done. The convergence of new biomedical technologies with information technologies has revealed to us just how complex cancer truly is. Indeed, the biology of cancer is intimately intertwined with the unique genetics of each person, making it an “individualized” disease. Hopefully they can convert the spice into an inject able substance that can kill all cancer cells.

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