Curcumin, a promising anti-cancer therapeutic: A review of its chemical properties, bioactivity and approaches to cancer cell delivery
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The development of new anti-cancer treatments with greater efficacy and fewer side effects remains a significant challenge of modern scientific and medical research. Curcumin, a natural polyphenol found in the dietary spice turmeric, has been demonstrated to inhibit cancer cell survival and proliferation, and to induce apoptosis without promoting the development of side effects. However, due to its sparing solubility and low bioavailability, curcumin has not yet been clinically used to treat cancer. This review describes the main physicochemical properties of curcumin, including its chemical structure, stability, and degradation products as a function of pH and temperature. It also describes the proposed mechanisms by which curcumin exhibits anti-cancer activity. Finally, we review the various approaches that have been studied to enhance the solubility and bioavailability of curcumin, including the preparation of co-crystals, and the development of delivery systems based on liposomes, micelles, exosomes, nanoparticles and dendrimers. © 2014 The Royal Society of Chemistry.