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Curcumin compound improves effectiveness of head and neck cancer treatment, U-M study finds
Date:5/19/2011

ANN ARBOR, Mich. A primary reason that head and neck cancer treatments fail is the tumor cells become resistant to chemotherapy drugs. Now, researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that a compound derived from the Indian spice curcumin can help cells overcome that resistance.

When researchers added a curcumin-based compound, called FLLL32, to head and neck cancer cell lines, they were able to cut the dose of the chemotherapy drug cisplatin by four while still killing tumor cells equally as well as the higher dose of cisplatin without FLLL32.

The study appears this week in the Archives of Otolaryngology Head and Neck Surgery.

"This work opens the possibility of using lower, less toxic doses of cisplatin to achieve an equivalent or enhanced tumor kill. Typically, when cells become resistant to cisplatin, we have to give increasingly higher doses. But this drug is so toxic that patients who survive treatment often experience long-term side effects from the treatment," says senior study author Thomas Carey, Ph.D., professor of otolaryngology and pharmacology at the U-M Medical School and co-director of the Head and Neck Oncology Program at the U-M Comprehensive Cancer Center.

That tumors become resistant to cisplatin is a major reason why head and neck cancer patients frequently see their cancer return or spread. It also plays a big role in why five-year survival for head and neck cancer has not improved in the past three decades.

FLLL32 is designed to sensitize cancer cells at a molecular level to the antitumor effects of cisplatin. It targets a key type of protein called STAT3 that is seen at high levels in about 82 percent of head and neck cancers. High levels of STAT3 are linked to problems with normal cell death processes, which allow cancer cells to survive chemotherapy treatment. STAT3 activation has been associated with cisplatin resistance in head and neck
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Contact: Nicole Fawcett
nfawcett@umich.edu
734-764-2220
University of Michigan Health System
Source:Eurekalert  

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