In a UCLA-led phase I clinical trial, a new plant-based drug called APG-157 showed signs of helping patients fight oral and oropharyngeal cancers. These cancers are located in the head and the neck.
APG-157 is made up of multiple compounds produced by plants, including curcumin. UCLA Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center researchers found that treatment with this botanical drug resulted in high concentrations of curcumin and its byproducts circulating in the blood and absorbed by tumor tissues within three hours after being taken orally.
APG-157 reduced the concentration of cytokines — proteins involved in inflammation — in the saliva when administered to cancer patients. The therapy also reduced the relative abundance of Bacteroides species, a group of gram-negative bacteria. Gram negative refers to a group of dangerous bacteria that have an outer layer which hides them from the immune system. The relative abundance of gram-negative bacteria compared to the presence of other types of bacteria is correlated with oral cancer.
APG-157 also resulted in the expression of genes that are associated with attracting immune system T cells to the tumor area. This therapy could have a beneficial effect when used in combination with immunotherapy drugs that help immune system T cells recognize and kill tumors.
The treatment did not have any adverse effects on the study’s participants.