Qatar University College of Pharmacy (QU-CPH) MSc graduate, Sourour Idoudi successfully defended her MSc thesis entitled, “Succinylated Curcumin Loaded in Mannosylated Chitosan Nanoparticles for Colon Cancer Therapy.”

Her research was conducted at QU-CPH and HMC and involved chemical modification of and encapsulation curcumin, the main constituent in the Indian spice, turmeric. Curcumin exhibits important therapeutic properties, including antioxidant, antibacterial and anticancer effects. However, these therapeutic effects are constrained by instability and poor solubility. Chemical modification of curcumin with succinate groups ensured that the stability and solubility were improved. A further frontier in her research was to encapsulate the modified curcumin in nanoparticles made from chitosan. Chitosan is derived from the exoskeleton of crustaceans and is biodegradable and biocompatible. Prior to encapsulation, chitosan was conjugated to mannose, a sugar that is actively utilized by cancer cells. Finally, application of the encapsulated modified curcumin in chitosan nanoparticles to colon cancer cells revealed improved effects.

“Out of 10 million cases of cancer in 2020, colon cancer accounted for 10%, with the majority of cases in adults aged 50 and older. Unfortunately, mortality is expected to rise in coming years. Curcumin exhibits several therapeutic effects but its actions are limited because of poor solubility and instability. To overcome these limitations, curcumin may either be encapsulated in nanoparticle delivery systems or chemical modified with relevant moieties. The formulated curcumin nanoparticles induced a significant cytotoxic effect on colon cancer cell lines” Idoudi said.

“I am honored to have had the chance to work in the field of nanotechnology for cancer therapy and to obtain such interesting findings.” Idoudi said

Idoudi pointed out that although the research endeavor was challenging, hard work, and dedication were her arsenal for success. Her scope of knowledge, skills, and experience as an early career researcher has grown exponentially.

“I was awarded Graduate Teaching and Research Assistant position during my MSc studies in QU College of Pharmacy. During my MSc studies, I have published three peer-review articles, with other two more in the preparation stage. I am recipient of one QU research grant. I am very grateful being a postgraduate student at the QU College of Pharmacy, which will shape my career in the future,” she added.

Sourour was mainly supervised by: Prof. Nashiru Billa, Professor of Pharmaceutical Sciences College of Pharmacy QU, Co Supervised by Prof. Yousef Hijji, Professsor of Chemistry, College of Arts and Sciences; Prof. Hesham Korashy, Professor of Pharmacology, Qatar University, QU Health CPH, and Prof. Shahab Uddin, Senior Scientist & Head Pathophysiology core facility, Translational Research Institute, Hamad Medical Corporation.

Professor Nashiru Billa said, “All indications are that the incidence of colorectal cancer globally, will continue to rise in the foreseeable future. Current treatment options may expose patients to life-threatening side effects, so the evolution of therapeutics aimed at minimizing unwanted effects is critical. Sourour MSc thesis provides a window to research contributions that address untoward pharmacological effects, whilst retaining potency of chemotherapeutics of plant origin. Her results show very promising indicators worthy of further development into viable formulation for treating colon cancer’

Dr. Fatima Mraiche, Section of Head of Research and Graduate Studies at the College of Pharmacy-QU, highlighted:’’ We are proud at CPH to having leading researchers work on emerging pharmaceutical strategies such as the use of nanoformulation for targeted drug delivery and look forward to the clinical application as such strategies’’.