A Cancer Treatment in the Spice Cabinet?
Mon Jan 2, 7:00 PM ET
In the main stream media!!
A growing body of laboratory research suggests the spice turmeric has potent
anticancer activity -- and researchers have launched a slew of human trials
to find out just how powerful it may be.
"I think the promise is enormous," said Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, chief of the
cytokine research laboratory in the department of experimental therapeutics
at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center. Aggarwal has conducted
numerous lab and animal studies of turmeric and its primary component,
curcumin, and recently gave a lecture on the topic at the annual conference
of the Society for Integrative Oncology.
Turmeric is a yellow powder made from the roots of a plant in the ginger
family. It is the main ingredient in curry powder and is widely used in
Indian and Southeast Asian cooking.
Many cultures also use turmeric for medicinal purposes, to treat everything
from heartburn to arthritis. The idea to try turmeric against cancer
developed as researchers learned about the role inflammation plays in
"Turmeric and curcumin are anti-inflammatory," Aggarwal said. "That has been
described in traditional medicine like Ayurveda for thousands of years."
Lab and Animal Studies Show Effect on Many Cancers
The early lab research Aggarwal and others have done focuses on curcumin,
the most active compound in turmeric. The studies show that curcumin can
indeed slow inflammation. It also appears to slow the spread of cancer
(metastasis), slow down the growth of new tumor blood vessels
(angiogenesis), and cause cancer cells to die the way normal cells do
What's more, these effects don't appear to be limited to just one type of
cancer. Curcumin has shown effects in lab studies against metastatic
melanoma, mantle cell lymphoma, and other cancers. Most recently, Aggarwal
published a study in the journal Clinical Cancer Research showing that
eating curcumin could keep breast cancer from spreading to the lungs – at
least in mice. In addition, it appeared to enhance the positive effects of
the chemotherapy drug paclitaxel and lessen the severity of its side
However, not all research on curcumin has had such positive results. At
least one laboratory study suggests curcumin may inhibit the action of other
chemotherapy drugs, including camptothecin, mechlorethamine, doxorubicin,
and cyclophosphamide. That's why it's so important to conduct well-designed
studies in people of how curcumin affects different types of cancer.
At MD Anderson alone, Aggarwal said, doctors are testing curcumin in
multiple myeloma and advanced pancreatic cancer. The institution is also
seeking funding for a study of curcumin in women with breast cancer, he
said. Studies from other institutions, both in the US and overseas, are
looking at curcumin as a potential treatment for myelodysplastic syndromes,
and for preventing colorectal cancer in individuals with familial
adenomatous polyposis or with sporadic polyps. Curcumin is also being
studied as a treatment for Alzheimer's disease and psoriasis.
Citation: "Curcumin Suppresses the Paclitaxel-Induced Nuclear Factor-ęB
Pathway in Breast Cancer Cells and Inhibits Lung Metastasis of Human Breast
Cancer in Nude Mice." Published in the Oct. 15, 2005, issue of Clinical
Cancer Research (Vol. 11, No. 20: 7490-7498). First author: Bharat B.
Aggarwal, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center.
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