nano-technology-structureA new study published in Nanoscale outlines a new process to target and destroy treatment-resistant neuroblastoma tumor cells, using nanoparticles laced with curcumin.  Neuroblastomas is a type of cancer that starts in early nerve cells (called neuroblasts) of the sympathetic nervous system, and are often found in the small glands on top of the kidneys (adrenal glands).  This horrible cancer occurs most often in very young children and 700 new cases of neuroblastoma are confirmed each year just in the United States.  Neuroblastoma can be quick or slow growing and may require surgery and chemotherapy treatment.  Later stages of this disease are very difficult to treat successfully.  Even with successful initial treatment, reoccurrence is common,  and those that are cured are often left with disabilities or developmental delays.

Researchers at Nemours Children’s Hospital and the University of Central Florida teamed to look for a new approach to nanoparticle delivery systems that could eliminate neuroblastoma tumor cells.  They were intrigued by a component of the common spice turmeric that gives it the orange color, called curcumin, which has strong anti inflammatory and anti cancer properties but has poor bioavailability (absorption) without some enhancement.  We discuss a highly bioavailable form of oral curcumin here.

The Nemours and UCF researchers used curcumin coated with dextran, which is a group of glucose polymers, and loaded them into Cerium oxide (CeO2) nanoparticles.  This combination of nano-therapeutic curcumin treatment induced substantial cell death especially in high-risk form MYCN-amplified neuroblastoma cells, compared to often used small molecule drug therapies.  The treatment also caused little or no toxicity in healthy cells.  Professor Sudipta Seal who participated in the study and directs UCF’s NanoScience Technology Center and Advanced Materials Processing Analysis Center, concluded that “More research is needed, but we are hopeful it could lead to more effective treatment of this devastating disease in the future.”