Curcumin Double Benefits – Inhibits Cancer Stem Cells but Stimulates Normal Stem Cells – Study Says

Stem cells are undifferentiated cells.

In simple language, they have capability to give rise to indefinitely more cells.

The realization by scientists that cancers may rely on “cancer stem cells” that share the self-renewal feature of normal stem cells was a very important one.  This has also shaped the cancer treatment methods too.

Like normal stem cells, cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a group of cells within a tumor that can renew themselves and thus sustain the cancer.  They are resistant to the conventional treatments and are the major cause of recurrence of the disease.

Various gifts of nature have been found useful in cancer and one very important one is turmeric.

The health benefits of Turmeric (Curcuma longa) are beyond comparison, attracting a number of scientists to test the safety and efficacy of the natural compound in treating various diseases.

Research published in The International Journal of Cancer Research and Treatment: Anticancer Research explores the effects of curcumin, the primary polyphenol of turmeric, on CSCs and Normal stem cells (NSCs) .

About the research

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.

Further read:


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.

Curcumin is actually doubly beneficial – it acts against cancer stem cells while stimulate normal stem cells functions.

How fantastic! Start taking turmeric today!

About the Author


Turmeric for Health's writer team consists of passionate writers from the fields of biotechnology, pharmacy, nutrition, Ayurveda & microbiology.Our writers are highly qualified with many having Ph.D., M.Tech & MSc degrees while others having B.Tech, BSc, B.Pharm. Our differentiation lies in researching and presenting ONLY FACTUAL SCIENTIFIC information. We spend 10s of hours to write a single article. Info of our articles is sourced from reliable scientific sources which are also provided as a link alongside for readers to refer if they want. You can read more about our team in the " About us" section.

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