Angiogenesis is development of new blood vessels. This is an extremely vital process in case of growth and repair of tissues.
At the same time this can be unhealthy in case of cancer.
Just like regular cells, cancerous cells and tumors require oxygen and nutrition to proliferate and they do this by using existing blood capillaries of nearby tissues.
However to grow further they require their own blood supply. They do this by acquiring all the agents that promote angiogenesis.
Therefore it is thought that antiangiogenic therapy can prevent such processes and inhibit the tumors from developing their own blood supply. In the absence of this the cancer cells fail to survive.
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How does Turmeric inhibit Angiogenesis in Cancer?
Since this entire portal is dedicated to turmeric, you must be aware of the compound curcumin if you have read our earlier articles.
Curcumin is the principal bioactive compound of turmeric and possess amazing pharmacological properties.
Curcumin is already popular as an anti-cancer agent. In addition to terminating the growth and proliferation of cancer cells, curcumin also inhibits the process of angiogenesis. It does so by:
• Directly inhibiting the activity of cells that form blood vessels
• Inhibiting the activity of factors that promote angiogenesis
Additionally it has pro-apoptopic (causing cell death) and anti-proliferative effect on tumor cells.
This activity of turmeric has been discussed in detail in ‘Curcumin as an inhibitor of angiogenesis’, Sulochana S. Bhandarkar and Jack L. Arbiser.
1. It inhibits proteins that support blood vessel formation
Two proteins that are crucial to the angiogenesis process are vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF).
VEGF is a protein that helps in producing new blood vessels during embryonal growth, after injury and also in case of blockage. Some cancers overexpress VEGF and hence spread to different parts of the body.
Tumor necrosis factor-alpha is a cell signaling protein that is primarily involved in inflammation and it supports angiogenesis by promoting secretion of VEGF.
Research shows that curcumin can suppress angiogenesis by inhibiting TNF-alpha induced VEGF secretion in lymphoma cells.
In hepatocellular carcinoma (a type of liver cancer), curcumin is found to attenuate the development of blood vessels by reducing the expression of VEGF and other inflammatory agents like COX-2 and nuclear factor-kappaB.
The basic fibroblast growth factor is another strong angiogenic protein that stimulates migration of endothelial (blood vessel-forming cells) cells and their proliferation. Curcumin inhibits the growth of endothelial cells in the presence or absence of bFGF.
What does this mean?
Curcumin inhibits the activity of two crucial angiogenic proteins (VEGF & bFGF) and prevents blood vessel formation in cancerous cells.
2. It prevents migration of blood vessel cells to tumors
Endothelial cell migration is the movement of blood vessel-forming cells to the required site.
An extracellular matrix is a group of cells that provide structural support to the cells. Interaction between endothelial cells and extracellular matrix enables migration and adhesion of endothelial cells.
Curcumin’s anti-angiogenic action is mediated by inhibiting two proteins belonging to the extracellular matrix:
• uPA- urokinase plasminogen activator system
• MMP- matrix metalloproteinase
What does this mean?
Curcumin inhibits the activity of structural proteins that mediate migration of endothelial cells to cancerous sites.
3. It inhibits the activity of adhesion molecules
Cell adhesion molecules are proteins expressed on the surface of certain cells that help in the attachment of these cells to other cells. They are expressed on endothelial cells and help the formation of blood vessels.
ICAM-1, VCAM-1, and ELAM-1 are common cell adhesion molecules expressed by endothelial cells and thereby expression is increased by tumor necrosis factor.
What does this mean?
Downregulation of cell adhesion molecules, which are necessary for attachment and development of endothelial cells, is another way by which curcumin prevents angiogenesis and metastasis.
Dosage of Turmeric For Cancer
Including turmeric in your diet is a great preventive and precautionary measure for most diseases.
However, if you are opting for a therapeutic dose or if you don’t include it in cooking then you must take turmeric with black pepper and/or fats to take care of its absorption.
The Golden Paste recipe takes care of this. Start with 1/8-1/4 tsp a day and gradually increase by ¼ tsp every week if you see no side effects. The recommended dose is 1-2 tsp 2-3 times a day.
For further details read Turmeric/Curcumin Dosage For Cancer: A Scientific Plan
If you need help identifying good brands of turmeric please check this.
Turmeric in dietary amount does not pose any risk. Doses up to 8g have found to be safe but high doses can cause gastric side effects in real life.
Before taking turmeric supplements please consult your doctor to avoid the risk of possible drug interactions. Turmeric supplements should be discontinued 2 weeks prior to surgery to avoid the risk of bleeding.
Avoid supplements if you are suffering from bile duct obstruction.
Turmeric supplements should be avoided in pregnancy and lactation. Diabetes medication, stomach acid reducing drugs and blood thinning medications can have possible drug interactions with turmeric supplements.
Turmeric supplements should be opted for only after consulting a doctor. In conditions like gout or if you are at high risk of developing kidney stones it is advisable to opt for curcumin supplements because turmeric is moderately high in oxalates.
Consult your doctor before taking turmeric for cancer in the form of supplements as turmeric can increase sensitivity to chemo and radiotherapy in which case your dosage needs to be monitored.
Turmeric and curcumin are proven, potent anti-cancer agents. They have multiple modes of action in terminating and preventing the spread of cancer.
One such mode is inhibiting angiogenesis or development of blood vessels.
Development of blood vessels is vital for the development of tumors and the spread of cancer to other parts of the body. Curcumin inhibits this process and cuts down the blood supply thereby destroying cancerous growth.