Curcumin and Graphene Oxide Incorporated into Alginate Hydrogels as Versatile Devices for the Local Treatment of Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Materials (Basel). 2022 Feb 22;15(5):1648. doi: 10.3390/ma15051648.


With the aim of preparing hybrid hydrogels suitable for use as patches for the local treatment of squamous cell carcinoma (SCC)-affected areas, curcumin (CUR) was loaded onto graphene oxide (GO) nanosheets, which were then blended into an alginate hydrogel that was crosslinked by means of calcium ions. The homogeneous incorporation of GO within the polymer network, which was confirmed through morphological investigations, improved the stability of the hybrid system compared to blank hydrogels. The weight loss in the 100-170 °C temperature range was reduced from 30% to 20%, and the degradation of alginate chains shifted to higher temperatures. Moreover, GO enhanced the stability in water media by counteracting the de-crosslinking process of the polymer network. Cell viability assays showed that the loading of CUR (2.5% and 5% by weight) was able to reduce the intrinsic toxicity of GO towards healthy cells, while higher amounts were ineffective due to the antioxidant/prooxidant paradox. Interestingly, the CUR-loaded systems were found to possess a strong cytotoxic effect in SCC cancer cells, and the sustained CUR release (~50% after 96 h) allowed long-term anticancer efficiency to be hypothesized.

Keywords: alginate hydrogels; curcumin; graphene oxide; hybrid hydrogels; ionic crosslinking; squamous cell carcinoma.