Thalidomide teams-up with turmeric to kill myeloma cells


One of the curcumin–thalidomide hybrids

Cancer researchers in the US and China have combined the turmeric spice pigment curcumin and the drug thalidomide to create hybrid compounds that can kill multiple myeloma cells.

Multiple myeloma is the second most common type of blood cancer, killing 20% of affected patients each year. The drug thalidomide, banned after causing birth defects when given during pregnancy in the 1950s, was recently rediscovered and approved for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Thalidomide works by disturbing the microenvironment of tumour cells in bone marrow. However, it disintegrates in the body. Curcumin, a yellow pigment from the common spice turmeric, is also active against cancers, including myeloma, but is limited by its poor water solubility.

Shijun Zhang at Virginia Commonwealth University, US, and colleagues, have synthesised compounds combining structural features from both thalidomide and curcumin. ‘The hybrids have enhanced solubility, and higher toxicity against myeloma cells than curcumin, thalidomide, or a mixture of both,’ explains Zhang, ‘so our design rational is going in the right direction.’ Zhang says the hybrids kill myeloma cells through combined mechanisms of action that include the generation of reactive oxygen species and cell cycle inhibition.

‘The advantage of the hybrid compounds is that they are stabilised, and do not degrade in the body as thalidomide does,’ says William Douglas Figg from the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, US, who has conducted numerous studies and clinical trials with thalidomide derivatives. However, from his experience, compounds considered for further trials should be more toxic to myeloma cells.

In the meantime, one of Zhang’s hybrid compounds has shown activity against myeloma and prostate cancer in animal models.


Related Content

Chemistry World podcast - August 2013

5 August 2013 Podcast | Monthly

news image

Loren Williams explains how the ribosome hints at the origins of life, and Kevin Greenlees discusses veterinary drug developm...

Curcumin

31 July 2013 Podcast | Compounds

news image

For an aromatic curry and, potentially, a healthier life, Simon Cotton recommends curcumin

Most Read

Not all science is created equal

16 October 2014 Comments

news image

John Ioannidis explains why researchers should be curious about the differences between disciplines

MDMA

9 October 2014 Podcast | Compounds

news image

The drug that fuelled rave culture may yet be a treatment for PTSD. Hayley Simon introduces MDMA

Most Commented

Not all science is created equal

16 October 2014 Comments

news image

John Ioannidis explains why researchers should be curious about the differences between disciplines

MDMA

9 October 2014 Podcast | Compounds

news image

The drug that fuelled rave culture may yet be a treatment for PTSD. Hayley Simon introduces MDMA