Curcumin Improves Chemotherapy Treatment

A special form of the spice curcumin may improve cancer treatment, both directly with its activity against cancer cells and indirectly by sensitizing cancer cells to the effects of chemotherapy. That is the finding of a study done at Baylor University Mdical Center in Dallas and published in the journal PLoS ONE. A release from the university notes that the researchers also showed that BCM-95 Curcumin reduces cellular DNA damage that can lead to cancer.

The study involved colorectal cancer cells that were treated with either 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU), which is a common chemotherapeutic agent used for colorectal cancer, or a combination of 5-FU and curcumin.

The release quotes researcher Ajay Goel PhD as saying, “One of the problems with chemotherapy is that cancer cells can become resistant to its effects, so higher and higher doses of the chemo must be used. This results in a great deal of damage to healthy tissue and an increase in serious adverse effects. We wanted to see how curcumin might improve chemotherapy’s ability to kill cancer cells. Curcumin was able to induce death in colorectal cancer cells that have become resistant to chemotherapy, even super-high doses of toxic chemotherapy. The ability of this form of curcumin to chemo-sensitize and induce death in these cells that can evade even the notoriously toxic chemo drugs is significant. It demonstrates that curcumin can regulate many more cancer-targets within cancer cells, which conventional chemotherapy fails to do. Additionally, curcumin specifically helped kill colon cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are the Achilles Heel of cancer chemotherapy, because patients may respond to chemotherapy initially, but experience tumor recurrence and/or resistance to chemotherapy subsequently. The ability of curcumin to help kill cancer stem cells is unique, and very encouraging.”

When asked about prevention, Dr. Goel said, “About 15% of all colon cancers have a defect in their DNA proofreading machinery, also called the DNA mismatch repair (MMR) system. Cancers with this defect have compromised proofreading when new DNA is formed, and this allows accumulation of lots of mutations in key genes and permits the growth of cancer cells.  In this study, we found that curcumin can help kill these DNA MMR defective cells as well.”

The release cautions that the form of curcumin used in the study, BCM-95 Curcumin, has unique specifications, including high absorption and inclusion of turmeric essential oil, which is not found in standard curcumin. Therefore, results may not apply to other forms of curcumin. 

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