Dental Tribune America

Botanical drug containing curcumin helps fight oral and oropharyngeal cancers

By Dental Tribune International
February 25, 2020

LOS ANGELES, U.S.: In a recent study, researchers examined the effect that APG-157, a botanical plant-based drug that contains curcumin and was developed under the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Botanical Drug Development: Guidance for Industry, has on neck and head cancer patients. The findings showed that the drug helps patients fight oral and oropharyngeal cancers by reducing the concentration of cytokines in the saliva and could serve as a therapeutic drug in combination with immunotherapy.

According to Cancer.Net, head and neck cancers account for approximately 4% of all cancers and an estimated 650,000 new cases will be reported this year. Since current treatment options, such as surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, often cause adverse effects, there is a strong need for novel low-toxicity therapies for the effective treatment of cancer patients.

Curcumin is a medicinally active drug. Owing to its antioxidant properties and its ability to reduce swelling and inflammation, curcumin has been proved to help fight multiple cancers. When taken orally, the drug is poorly absorbed into the bloodstream. However, a recent study found that, when APG-157 was administered by oral mucosal absorption, levels of curcumin circulating in the blood were high and it ended up being absorbed by cancer tissue.

In the study, researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center compared the effect of APG-157 in 12 participants who had oral and oropharyngeal cancer with a control group of 13 participants who did not have cancer. The medication was administered every hour for 3 hours, and the researchers collected blood and saliva samples before administering the medication and 24 hours after the last dosage.

The researchers found that the therapy was successful in reducing the relative abundance of Bacteroides species, a group of Gram-negative bacteria that is associated with oral cancer. Additionally, APG-157 helped attract immune system T cells to the tumor area. This suggests that, when used in combination with immunotherapy drugs, the therapy could help the immune system T cells both recognize and kill tumors. Since it has the potential to hinder the growth of Bacteroides species, the researchers believe that APG-157 could also improve cancer therapy through oral microbial changes.

“Dental professionals are likely to be the first to identify suspicious lesions in the oral cavity, and this provides a valuable mechanism for screening. Treatment for oral cancer is much more successful when cancers are diagnosed at an early stage, so dental professionals are key to early diagnosis of oral cancers,” co-author Dr. Marilene Wang told Dental Tribune International.

The researchers are now planning a Phase 2 trial of APG-157, in which they will study the effect of the drug when given on a longer-term basis and to a larger number of oral cancer patients. They hypothesize that APG-157 will be able to suppress the growth of oral cancer.

The study, titled “A randomized, phase 1, placebo‐controlled trial of APG-157 in oral cancer demonstrates systemic absorption and an inhibitory effect on cytokines and tumor‐associated microbes,” was published online on Feb. 5, 2020, in Cancer, ahead of inclusion in an issue.

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