Turmeric (curcumin)

Turmeric fights breast cancer in mice - study

By Maggie Fox, Health and Science Correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Turmeric, a yellow spice used widely in Indian cooking, may help stop the spread of cancer, U.S. researchers reported on Thursday 7-14-05.

Tests in mice showed that curcumin, an active compound found in turmeric, helped stop the spread of breast cancer tumor cells to the lungs.Tests have already started in people, too, said Bharat Aggarwal of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who led the study.

"Here you don't need to worry about safety. The only thing we have to worry about is efficacy," Aggarwal said in a telephone interview.

"Curcumin, as you know, is very much an essential part of the Indian diet," he added.

"What's exciting about this agent is that it seems to have both chemopreventive and therapeutic properties. If we can demonstrate that it is efficacious in humans, it could be of tremendous value, but we're a long way from being able to make any recommendations yet," Aggarwal said.

Earlier research showed that curcumin, which acts as an antioxidant, can help prevent tumors from forming in the laboratory.

For their study, Aggarwal and colleagues injected mice with human breast cancer cells -- a batch of cells grown from a patient whose cancer had spread to the lungs.

The resulting tumors were allowed to grow, and then surgically removed, to simulate a mastectomy, Aggarwal said. Then the mice either got no additional treatment; curcumin alone; the cancer drug paclitaxel, which is sold under the brand name Taxol; or curcumin plus Taxol.

Half the mice in the curcumin-only group and 22 percent of those in the curcumin plus Taxol group had evidence of breast cancer that had spread to the lungs, Aggarwal said in a study to be presented to a breast cancer research meeting in Philadelphia.

But 75 percent of animals that got Taxol alone and 95 percent of those that got no treatment developed lung tumors.

Aggarwal said earlier studies suggest that people who eat diets rich in turmeric have lower rates of breast cancer, prostate cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer.

His team would like to try giving curcumin to women who know they have a high risk of breast cancer -- such as those who have a mother or sister with the disease.

No drug company is likely to develop a natural product that cannot be patented, he said. "There are no companies behind it so our only source of funding is either the National Institutes of Health or the Department of Defense," he said.

This study was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Breast Cancer Research Program. Aggarwal's team is also testing curcumin against pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma.

Turmeric May Inhibit Tumor Growth

Tue Oct 8, 2005 10:44 AM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A compound found in the spice turmeric may suppress production of a protein that spurs tumor growth in the body, researchers report.

According to their study, curcumin inhibited the production of interleukin-8 (IL-8), a protein that attracts white blood cells to a particular site and leads to inflammation. The compound also reduced the activity of nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-kappaB), a molecule that helps regulate the gene that produces IL-8.

While tumor cells are known to secrete high levels of inflammation-promoting proteins like IL-8, the exact role of these proteins in cancer is unclear. Previous research suggests that the compounds may spur the proliferation of tumor cells and suppress the immune system.

Regardless of the mechanism, controlling levels of these compounds "may have an important role in therapy for patients with malignant disease," Dr. Hideki Hidaka from Kumamoto University in Kumamoto, Japan and colleagues conclude.

The researchers mixed human pancreatic cancer cells with different amounts of curcumin, which is the substance that gives turmeric its yellow color. The production of IL-8 and the activity of NF-kappaB fell with increasing doses of curcumin.

If the spice component does indeed reduce IL-8 activities as the findings suggest, "curcumin is capable of working as a potent agent that reduces tumor promotion," the researchers conclude.

The study, in a recent issue of the journal Cancer, is not the first to link curcumin, a compound thought to be a potent anti-inflammatory agent, with certain health benefits. Studies also suggest that the compound might help heal wounds and fight Alzheimer's disease (news - web sites) and multiple sclerosis.

SOURCE: Cancer 2002;95:1206-1214.