LSU Chair receives funding to create gum that could prevent cancer

By Nikki Henderson |

Published 07/18 2014 09:10AM

Updated 07/18 2014 09:14AM

A new program is helping LSU researchers across the state move their inventions to market, and Dr. Cherie-Ann Nathan, Professor & Chair of Otolaryngology/Head & Neck Surgery at the School of Medicine in Shreveport, is among the first of its grant recipients.

Dr. Nathan is receiving the maximum amount possible, $50,000, from the LSU System's Leveraging Innovation for Technology Transfer /LIFT2 Program. She will use the funds to help produce a potentially cancer-preventing gum that harnesses the natural powers of curcumin, a substance found in the Indian spice turmeric.

Curcumin has long been a subject of research for Dr. Nathan. Funded by the National Institutes of Health her lab investigates curcumin's possible role in preventing the progression of head and neck cancers. Promising results have led to the first head and neck cancer trial with curcumin.
One roadblock in her effort to apply the research to human health is that the stomach, the traditional way oral medicine enters the body, does not absorb curcumin well.

Dr. Nathan hypothesized that gum may be a more effective delivery system because it allows for direct mucosal absorption of curcumin, bypassing the stomach. Her idea is to create a chewing gum that slowly releases curcumin to treat upper aerodigestive diseases and head and neck problems. The funds from LIFT2 will allow Dr. Nathan to contract with a medicinal chemist to perfect the curcumin gum.

Dr. Nathan said, "This is an exciting project with great potential to prevent head and neck cancers based on our bench research involving a number of collaborators, especially fellow faculty members Drs. Kenneth McMartin and Dr. Tammy Dugas, and support from the Feist-Weiller Cancer Center. Our lab is thrilled to be one of the inaugural awardees of the LIFT2 grant."

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