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A Plant-Derived Compound Offers Hope for Cervical Cancer

By LIDA TUNESI

Cervical cancer is caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), which is often sexually transmitted. Although there are vaccines for certain strains of the virus, cervical cancer remains the fourth leading cause of cancer death for women. Even if precancerous lesions are caught, treatments can increase risk of pregnancy complications later on.

Now, a study brings us a step closer to a new pharmaceutical that could prevent and treat cervical cancer. The research looked at the impact of a botanical mixture called TriCurin. It’s made from naturally occurring substances found in three items many of us have in our kitchens: curcumin (which is present in turmeric), epigallocatechin gallate (present in grapes), and resveratrol (found in green tea).

Research scientist Linda Einbond, Ph.D. student Jing Zhou, undergraduate research assistant Emeka Mbazor, and Professors Michael Balick (The Graduate Center) and Stephen Redenti (GC, Lehman College) authored the study, which appears in the British Journal of Cancer.

Scientists are already aware that TriCurin can eliminate HPV-positive cells, so the new study took another step by examining how the mixture affects the cells’ growth, and by examining a microemulsion-based cream that could be used in clinical trials.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that consuming turmeric, grapes, and green tea will prevent you from contracting HPV or cure you. “Our study does not say this,” Einbond said. “TriCurin is a combination of three purified plant-derived polyphenols, mixed in specific ratios.”

Specifically, the researchers examined TriCurin’s effects on so-called W12 cells,  cell lines that are derived from a cervical precancerous lesion. They saw that the mixture decreased the production of certain viral RNAs, including two that are critical for the virus’ ability to replicate, but which have previously been hard to target. They also found that TriCurin led to the activation of p53, a protein sometimes called “Guardian of the Genome” for its role in preventing tumors. Previous studies tested mixtures with varying amounts of each ingredient to find the most effective ratios. These researchers developed a cream containing the resultant mixture, TriCurin, that could be used topically.

The new mixture could have several advantages as a pharmaceutical, the authors say. Its ingredients are inexpensive, widely available, and non-toxic and appear to be stable in the cream. Even better, studies show evidence that TriCurin specifically targets malignant cells, which would help minimize harm to a patient’s healthy cells.