HYDERABAD: A research finding by the University of Hyderabad (UoH) might finally pave the way in developing a drug against cancer. Although turmeric has been used since ancient times as home remedy for various ailments in India, and modern medical science has already established the curative properties of the compound ‘curcumin’ found in the yellow spice, researchers have not been able to effectively utilise the same. This is because of the low solubility, half-life and bio-availability of curcumin in the form of a drug.
However, a study by a team of UoH researchers led by Dr Ashwini Nangia published this month in the journal Pharmaceutics claims a new co-amorphous solid —Curcumin-Artemisinin — has been found to solve these problems. Artemisinin is also a plant derived compound.
Bioavailability and solubility
For a drug to be effective in human body against a disease, it is essential that it is easily soluble in the blood/plasma and stays long enough in circulation in the body in order to be potent -- bio-availability. This has been a major hurdle till now as pure curcumin is neither soluble nor does it stay long enough in the body.However, UoH researchers found that when CUR-ART co-amorphous in solid form was administered orally to mice at a dosage of 200 milligrams per kilogram (mg/Kg) of body weight, solubility levels of 0.90 - 1.23 microgram per milliliter of blood was recorded in 30 minutes. Compared to this, pure curcumin’s solubility is so low that it cannot be even detected accurately.
Similarly, bio-availability of CUR-ART in the mice was observed to have enhanced when compared to that of pure curcumin. The half life of the combination in mice was 6-7 hours compared to pure curcumin, whose half life is less than an hour. When the CUR-ART co-amorphous was tested in Simulated Gastric Fluid and Simulated Intestinal Fluid, it was observed that CUR was present for a long time in both mediums so as to release a high concentration of CUR over extended period of time, which is required for any drug to be effective against a disease.
Effectiveness of CUR-ART tested
The researchers also tested effectiveness of CUR-ART coamorphous on pancreatic tumour. A dosage of 100 mg/kg was administered to the mice for five weeks and it was observed that the percentage of inhibition of tumour was 61.87 per cent, close to the percentage inhibition by pharmaceutical drug Doxorubicin (69.97 per cent). Side effects are not likely to occur when plant based compounds like CUR and ART are used. The UoH researchers conducted toxicology studies and observed that it showed no adverse effects in even when dosage was increased ten-fold. Dr Nangia said, “The successful animal trials of CUR-ART co-amorphous solid paves way for human trials. However, drug companies should show interest in conducting human trials.”