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Spice used to treat ovarian cancer

A new way of preparing ovarian cancer tumours for treatment has been found in an unlikely source - curry spice.

Researchers in the US found that exposing ovarian cancer cells that were previously therapy-resistant to microscopic "nanoparticles" of curcumin - a component of turmeric - made them more responsive to chemotherapy and radiation treatment.

A specially developed form of curcumin - known as Nano-CUR - was used in the study as regular curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body.

Study leader Dr Subhash Chauhan, from the University of South Dakota, US, said: "One strategy to improve the effectiveness and limit the toxicity of cancer therapy is to induce chemo/radio-sensitisation in cancer cells using natural dietary phytochemicals like curcumin. However, curcumin is poorly absorbed by the body, which limits its effectiveness.

"We have developed a nanoparticle formulation, Nano-CUR, to provide increased bioavailability as well as targeted delivery of curcumin into tumours.

"Nanoparticle mediated curcumin delivery will further improve the sensitisation and therapeutic capabilities. This study demonstrates a novel pre-treatment strategy that could be implemented in pre-clinical animal models and in future clinical trials."

The findings were published online in the Journal of Ovarian Research.

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Journal of Ovarian Research