Curcumin-loaded nanoemulsion: a new safe and effective formulation to prevent tumor reincidence and metastasis†
Curcumin is widely considered beneficial to human health, but insolubility and instability greatly hamper reproducible exploitation of the advantageous traits. Here we report on the development, characterization and evaluation of a curcumin-loaded nanoemulsion (CUR-NEM) that is highly effective in preventing post-surgery tumor reincidence and metastasis. The method of fabrication utilized safe excipients and generated particles of 200 nm (PDI ≤ 0.2) with negative zeta potential (−30 mV) and a high yield of curcumin (95%), which can be converted by lyophilization to a dry powder. In vitro assays showed that CUR-NEM is safe in non-cancerous human cells (HEK-293T) and preferentially cytotoxic in gastric (AGS), colon (HT29-ATCC, HT29-US), breast (MDA-MB-231) and melanoma (B16F10) cells. In addition, in melanoma cells the nanoformulation increases intracellular curcumin accumulation and reactive oxygen species (ROS) formation, while preventing cell-migration and invasion. In vivo studies in C57BL/6 mice demonstrated that a single dose, applied topically to the wounded area after surgical excision of primary tumors formed upon subcutaneous injection of syngeneic B16F10 cells, was sufficient to completely prevent reincident tumor growth and spontaneous lung metastasis, while in untreated animals 70% reincidence and metastasis were observed. In vivo experiments also showed that the fluorescence signal due to curcumin was maintained at least 15 days after topical application of CUR-NEM, while when administered in DMSO the curcumin signal disappeared within 4 days. Importantly, the administration of a dose 22 times larger than that applied topically to animals after tumor surgery did not alter biochemical parameters. Due to the safety and efficacy of the formulation, we envisage it as ideal for topical application in cancer patients following surgery, to prevent tumor reincidence and metastasis. In addition, other routes of administration/protocols could also be proposed to treat/prevent malignant tumors in patients.