Natural mucoadhesive tablet delivers anti-cancer spice

Researchers in India have discovered a new way to deliver curcumin, a spice that has shown signs of slowing prostate cancer. They've developed a natural mucoadhesive tablet out of purified cashew nut tree gum, allowing the spice's anti-carcinogenic and anti-inflammatory molecules to enter the body through the lining of the cheek.

As FierceBiotechResearch reported in February, scientists have found indications that the Indian curry spice can help slow the growth of prostate cancers. However, when curcumin is ingested, its therapeutic effects are dulled by the harsh fluids in the gastrointestinal tract. Thus, to maximize its effectiveness, researchers needed to find a new delivery platform. Indian researchers purified the gum of cashew nut trees with water and alcohol, creating a biodegradable and nontoxic tablet that allows the beneficial spice to be absorbed buccally, Nature ​reports.

In trials, patients experienced little discomfort with the tablets, and researchers noted that the gum absorbed water well, allowing for gum-to-cheek diffusion and transfer of the curcumin. That positive reaction could lead to more applications for the all-natural tablet, researchers said. "The cashew nut tree gum showed faster drug release than hydroxypropyl methyl cellulose, a standard mucoadhesive polymer, making it a potent biopolymer for buccal drug delivery," lead researcher K. Gowthamarajan told Nature​.

Of course, curcumin's anti-carcinogenic properties are still being studied. Researchers at Thomas Jefferson University found that the spice helps block androgen receptor signaling, helping the body's natural processes slow the growth of prostate cancer cells. Those same receptors play a role in the spread of breast and other cancers, researchers noted, so curcumin's applications could expand with more testing.

- check out ​Nature​'s story (reg. req.)

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