Curry Spice May Curb Breast Cancer's Spread
Curcumin, Found in Turmeric, Shows Promise Against Cancer in Mice
June 9, 2005 -- The spice turmeric, which is often found in curry powder,
contains a chemical that may help stop breast cancer from spreading.
Researchers from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center
presented the findings in Philadelphia at the U.S. Defense Department's
"Era of Hope" Breast Cancer Research Program. Their study involved
mice, not people, so they're not advising anyone to take curcumin for
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
Common in Indian Cooking
Turmeric has long been a staple of Indian cooking and traditional medicine.
It's also getting attention from researchers in Western medicine.
Curcumin, an antioxidant that gives turmeric its yellow color, is on the
National Cancer Society's list of compounds that have shown some evidence of
In January, WebMD reported results of Alzheimer's-related brain plaque in mice.
which showed that curcumin helped cut
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.
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