Dose-escalation and pharmacokinetic study of nanoparticle curcumin, a potential anticancer agent with improved bioavailability, in healthy human volunteers

Cancer Chemother Pharmacol. 2012 Jan;69(1):65-70. doi: 10.1007/s00280-011-1673-1. Epub 2011 May 21.


Background: More and more preclinical studies support the idea that curcumin, a plant-derived natural polyphenol, could be a promising anticancer drug. However, poor bioavailability has limited its efficacy in clinical trials, and plasma curcumin levels remain low despite patients taking gram doses of curcumin.

Methods: This study aimed to evaluate the safety and pharmacokinetics of newly developed nanoparticle curcumin with increased water solubility (named THERACURMIN). Six healthy human volunteers were recruited and received THERACURMIN at a single oral dose of 150 mg. After an interval of 2 weeks, the same subjects then received THERACURMIN at a single dose of 210 mg. Plasma curcumin levels were measured at 0, 1, 2, 4, 6, and 24 h after THERACURMIN intake using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC).

Results: One subject reported grade 1 diarrhea after intake of 150 mg THERACURMIN. No other toxicities were observed in this study. C (max) for THERACURMIN at 150 and 210 mg was 189 ± 48 and 275 ± 67 ng/ml (mean ± SEM), respectively, and the area under the curve for 24 h was estimated to be 2,649 ± 350 and 3,649 ± 430 ng/ml × h (mean ± SEM), respectively. The t (1/2) was estimated to be 9.7 ± 2.1 h for 150 mg and 13.0 ± 3.3 h for 210 mg.

Conclusion: THERACURMIN can safely increase plasma curcumin levels in a dose-dependent manner at least up to 210 mg without saturating the absorption system. To the best of our knowledge, THERACURMIN is the first nanoparticle formulation of curcumin that demonstrates improved bioavailability in human subjects. We believe this compound could be a promising tool when testing the potential anticancer effects of curcumin in clinical trials.

Publication types

  • Controlled Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Oral
  • Adult
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / administration & dosage
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / adverse effects
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacokinetics*
  • Area Under Curve
  • Biological Availability
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Curcumin / administration & dosage
  • Curcumin / adverse effects
  • Curcumin / pharmacokinetics*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Female
  • Half-Life
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nanoparticles*
  • Solubility


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Curcumin