Dai was specifically interested in exploring the properties of the curcusone A, B, C and D compounds.
“We were very interested by these compounds’ novel structure,” Dai said. “We were intrigued by their biological function; they showed quite potent anti-cancer activity and may lead to new mechanisms to combat cancer.”
When the compounds were tested on breast cancer cells, researchers found that curcusone D was highly efficient at closing off cancer cells.
“Our compound can not only kill these cancer cells, it can stop their migration,” Dai said. “If we can keep the cancer from metastasizing, the patient can live longer.”
Dai added that when it comes to “killing cancer cells and stopping migration, there are other compounds that do that. But as far as inhibiting the BRAT1 protein, there are no other compounds that can do that.”
Dai and his team believe that curcusone D can be used alone and in combination with other therapies. In fact, it may be more effective in the latter use.
Next, the team plans to test the compound to make sure it’s not toxic to humans. Additionally, researchers from other institutions have already contacted the team to test the compound on the cancers they’re studying.
“Many of our most successful cancer drugs have come from nature,” Dai said. “A lot of the low-hanging fruit, the compounds that are easy to isolate or synthesize, have already been screened and picked over. We are looking for things no one has thought about before. Once we have the chemistry, we can build the molecules we’re interested in and study their biological function.”