Curcumin: A new candidate for melanoma therapy?

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Abstract

Melanoma remains among the most lethal cancers and, in spite of great attempts that have been made to increase the life span of patients with metastatic disease, durable and complete remissions are rare. Plants and plant extracts have long been used to treat a variety of human conditions; however, in many cases, effective doses of herbal remedies are associated with serious adverse effects. Curcumin is a natural polyphenol that shows a variety of pharmacological activities including anti-cancer effects, and only minimal adverse effects have been reported for this phytochemical. The anti-cancer effects of curcumin are the result of its anti-angiogenic, pro-apoptotic and immunomodulatory properties. At the molecular and cellular level, curcumin can blunt epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition and affect many targets that are involved in melanoma initiation and progression (e.g., BCl2, MAPKS, p21 and some microRNAs). However, curcumin has a low oral bioavailability that may limit its maximal benefits. The emergence of tailored formulations of curcumin and new delivery systems such as nanoparticles, liposomes, micelles and phospholipid complexes has led to the enhancement of curcumin bioavailability. Although in vitro and in vivo studies have demonstrated that curcumin and its analogues can be used as novel therapeutic agents in melanoma, curcumin has not yet been tested against melanoma in clinical practice. In this review, we summarized reported anti-melanoma effects of curcumin as well as studies on new curcumin formulations and delivery systems that show increased bioavailability. Such tailored delivery systems could pave the way for enhancement of the anti-melanoma effects of curcumin.

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