Monday, December 10, 2007

Curry Fights Colon Cancer, Skin Cancer, and Breast Cancer

Treatment Based on Curry and Onions Reduced Precancerous Intestinal Growths

Source: WebMD Medical News and TIME Magazine
Reviewed: Dr. Louise Chang, MD
Summary: Medical Discoveries
Date: Aug. 2, 2006

In the study, published in the journal Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, researchers evaluated the use of these curry ingredients as a potential colon cancer drug in five people with a rare genetic condition that causes the growth of precancerous polyps in the intestines.

The condition, Familial Adenomatous Polyposis (FAP), is usually inherited.

If the colon is not surgically removed, there is a 100% chance some of the polyps will develop into cancer, usually by age 40.

Each of the patients received 480 milligrams of curcumin and 20 milligrams of quercetin three times a day for six months. The results showed that treatment with the curry and onion compounds reduced the average number of polyps by 60%, and decreased their size by 50%.

Additionally, curry may have other benefits besides colon cancer treatments. According to a new study to be published in the August 15, 2005 issue of CANCER, curcumin, the yellow pigment found in the spice turmeric, which is an ingredient yellow curry powder, inhibits cell growth in melanoma, an especially virulent form of skin cancer that killed more than 7,000 Americans in 2002 alone.

Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center administered varied doses of curcumin to three lines of melanoma cells for different lengths of time. The result: apoptosis, a process that causes the normally immortal cancer cells to die like ordinary cells. And it happened whether the cells got a high dose of curcumin for a short time or a low dose for a long time.

How does curcumin stimulate apoptosis? It appears to work by suppressing two proteins in the cancer cells that would ordinarily block the process; curcumin is a sort of molecular double-negative. The researchers believe that curcumin could kill cancer cells, not just in test tubes, but in actual tumors, and they're now preparing for animal testing—and, if that's successful, for clinical trials in humans.

Breast Cancer Study
Curcumin could be of "tremendous value" if it's shown to be effective in humans, "but we're a long way from being able to make any recommendations yet, says researcher Bharat Aggarwal, PhD, in a news release.

The mice in Aggarwal's breast cancer study were split into four treatment groups: curcumin alone, the breast cancer drug Taxol alone, curcumin and Taxol, and no treatment.

The breast cancer cells were allowed to grow before being removed from the mice. Treatment started after that. Five weeks later, cancer had spread to the lungs of mice in all four groups. But the two curcumin groups fared best.

Less than a quarter of the mice in the curcumin-plus-Taxol group had cancer that spread to the lungs. So did half of the curcumin group. In comparison, cancer spread to the lungs in three-fourths of the Taxol group and almost all (95%) mice that got no treatment.
Surprising Results

Those results were unexpected, so the researchers repeated the test. This time, they let the cancers grow a little bit bigger before removing them.

After five weeks of treatment, half of the mice in the curcumin and curcumin-plus-Taxol groups had cancer in their lungs, says a news release.

"Curcumin acts against transcription factors, which are like a master switch," says Aggarwal. "Transcription factors regulate all the genes needed for tumors to form. When we turn them off, we shut down some genes that are involved in the growth and invasion of cancer cells."

Curcumin is being tested against a type of cancer called multiple myeloma and pancreatic cancer in early phase I clinical trials at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Other groups are conducting a global study of curcumin's ability to prevent oral cancer, says the news release.

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