Study 1: Curcumin Reduces Side Effects Of Conventional Cancer Therapy
Patients undergoing chemo and radiotherapy and scoring above 70 on the Karnofsky scale were enrolled in the study. Karnofsky scale is used to classify a patient’s performance status when suffering and being treated with cancer.
All the patients were in reasonably good condition, independent and able to take care of themselves.
They were given 500mg Meriva (a special formulation of curcumin) or placebo thrice a day for 60 consecutive days. Patients were asked to record the incidence of side effects.
What were the results?
Oxidative stress (imbalance between prooxidants and antioxidants in the body) was assessed on the basis of medical tests. It was observed that oxidative stress reduced in Meriva group and increased in the placebo group.
Within 2 months of treatment, a significant reduction in score in chemotherapy-induced side effects was observed.
For example, nausea and vomiting fell down by 2.4 points while diarrhea and constipation dropped by 3.7 points. In the placebo group, scores remained the same or increased.
Similarly in radiotherapy-induced side effects % incidence of side effects reduced greatly in the Meriva group in comparison to the placebo group.
For example, the incidence rate for nausea and diarrhea was 15% in the Meriva group and 22% in the placebo group whereas weakness was 38% in the Meriva group and 63% in the placebo group.
How did this occur?
Researchers attributed most of these to curcumin’s principal properties: anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. These properties help in reducing gastrotoxicity, infection, and malnutrition.
Cognitive function was also assessed since cancer is marked with depression, anxiety and memory impairment. Curcumin also improved these factors which are indicative of its use for improving brain health.
Curcumin has an immune modulating property and can help in boosting immunity which is of value to cancer patients.
What does this mean?
Administering bioavailable forms of curcumin, in this case, Meriva, during conventional cancer treatments can significantly reduce the prevalence of side effects of cancer treatment. Consult your doctor before taking curcumin supplements.
Study 2: Curcumin reduces the severity of radiation dermatitis in cancer patients
30 breast cancer patients enrolled in this study. They had non-inflammatory breast cancer and were being treated with radiotherapy without chemotherapy.
Patients were given 2g of curcumin thrice daily or placebo. The severity of radiation dermatitis was assessed by means of observation, questionnaire, and comparable scales.
What was the result?
It was observed that in comparison to the placebo curcumin reduced the severity of radiation dermatitis. Fewer patients treated with curcumin had moist desquamation or peeling off of the upper layer of skin due to radiation exposure.
How did this occur?
In ancient times turmeric paste was primarily used for wound healing. Few of turmeric’s pharmacological properties involved in this are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-coagulant, etc.
Curcumin aids in wound healing but supporting collagen deposition, scab formation, and wound contraction. Apart from its skin regenerative potential, curcumin has been used to treat skin related disorders.
These properties together are possibly responsible for treating radiation dermatitis.
What does this mean?
Oral curcumin administration helps in reducing the severity of radiation dermatitis. Although this study doesn’t report any such findings, other clinical evidence suggests that curcumin boosts the anticancer potential of radiotherapy.
This could be another benefit of taking curcumin concurrently with radiotherapy. Consult your doctor before opting for curcumin supplements.
It produces the cytotoxic effects on CSCs through the following ways-
Modulation of self-renewal pathway of CSCs – Curcumin blocks the self-renewal pathways i.e. Wnt/ beta-catenin, notch and sonic hedgehog 89(SHH) pathways whose aberrant signaling is responsible for carcinogenesis and metastasis.
Regulation of microRNAs – MicroRNA is a small non-coding RNA molecule that helps in RNA splicing and post-transcriptional gene expression.
Curcumin inhibits tumor growth by regulating the expression of specific microRNAs involved in the acquisition of Epithelial-mesenchymal transition.
Direct anti-cancer activity – After testing the safety and tolerability of curcumin, it was found that curcumin directly targets the malignant cells with no adverse effect on healthy cells.
The study indicates that curcumin has the potential to serve as an effective anti-cancer agent.
By blocking the self-renewal pathways and inhibiting the expression of specific microRNAs, curcumin efficiently destroys the cancer stem cells, reducing the chances of recurrence of the disease.
Its minimal side effects and high tolerability make it a promising anti-cancer substance.
Study 4: Use of Curcumin Improved Precancerous Lesions in a Clinical Trial
Conducted by the scientists of National Taiwan University College of Medicine, the research involved 25 patients suffering from either of the following diseases-
The aspect of the research was to understand how curcumin (the key active ingredient of turmeric) acts on the two kinds of stem cells – one normal and one cancer.
This is what was observed:
The cytotoxic effects of Curcumin on CSCs are produced by the following mechanisms
Decrease in Interleukin-6(IL-6) levels– Curcumin inhibits the release of IL-6 from cells that can convert cancer cells to cancer stem cells.
Decrease in Interleukin-8( IL-8) levels – IL-8 is a pro-inflammatory chemokine that increases the proliferation and survival of cancer cells and their resistance to chemotherapy. Curcumin inhibits IL-8 production and its cancer-promoting bioactivities.
Decrease in Interleukin-1 (IL-1) levels – Curcumin is known to inhibit the production of IL-1β cytokine that promotes tumor growth and self-renewal of CSCs .
Inhibition of CXCR1 and CXCR2 binding – CXCR1 and CXCR2 are trans-membrane proteins that occur on cells including CSCs. Curcumin inhibits both cytokine release as well as their binding to CXCR1 and CXCR2 receptors preventing cell proliferation and metastasis.
Modulation of signaling pathways – Aberrant signaling of WNT , Notch , Hedgehog and FAK/AKT/FOXo3A pathways results in carcinogenesis, tumor recurrence and resistance to chemotherapies. Curcumin has the ability to block these pathways proving out to be a powerful anti-cancer agent.
It was also found that curcumin has no deleterious effects on NSCs as it has on CSCs probably because of the following reasons-
Curcumin uptake is higher in malignant cell lines.
Curcumin affects the microenvironment of cells in a manner that is beneficial for NSCs but not to CSCs.
Curcumin depletes CSCs by causing their trans-differentiation.
Hence, this study indicates that curcumin, a compound in the yellow colored spice, turmeric can prevent recurrence of Cancer and induce apoptosis in Cancer Stem Cells by various mechanisms while causing no harm to the Normal Stem Cells.
In the end..
In our email exchange, Dr. Bharat agreed with the philosophy that in the case of most disorders taking good quality turmeric powder is fine. Also, he stressed that one should make turmeric as part of life, this will prevent the body from any future diseases.
In the end, it is advisable to let your doctor know if you plan to start “Curcumin for Cancer” regimen.
Hope this helps.
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