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Health News Archive 30 - Cancer (con't)
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Curcumin Protects Against Radiation Damage in Cancer Treatment

Researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have discovered protective benefits of curcumin, from the herb turmeric.  Curcumin has shown to be protective against the radiation used to treat cancer patients. The pilot study results were presented at 44th annual meeting of the American Society for Therapeutic Radiology and Oncology in New Orleans in October 2002. Radiation therapy, while helpful in combating cancer, often causes burns and blisters in the patients who receive it.

The researchers, led by assistant professor of radiation oncology Ivan Ding, MD, gave two hundred mice 50 to 200 milligrams per kilogram oral curcumin per day, for five days before or five days after radiation, or both (ten days total). In another trial, the researchers administered curcumin for four days prior and three days following radiation. Control groups of mice received no curcumin. When skin damage was assessed twenty days later, all of the mice who received curcumin had minimal skin damage.

Research team leader and chief of radiation oncology at the University of Rochester James P Wilmot Cancer Center, Paul Okunieff, MD, commented, "This is significant because skin damage is a real problem for patients undergoing radiation to treat their tumors. If a nontoxic, natural substance can help prevent this damage and enhance the effectiveness of our radiation, that's a winning situation... Nearly all cancer patients who get radiation treatment experience some form of skin damage - from mild sunburn all the way to blisters - that is painful for many. If we can find a simple way to help prevent that, it would make treatment a bit easier."

Curcumin, by its antiangiogentic property, is already known to be helpful in suppressing tumor growth. The researchers advise further studies, but suggest that patients receiving radiation consider eating foods spiced with curry, which contains curcumin. They advise that the curcumin in the study was given orally or intraperitoneally, and that applying curcumin topically would not be beneficial.

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Compound in Turmeric Inhibits Growth of Human Pancreatic Cancer

Curcumin, the pigment responsible for turmeric's yellow color, can stop the growth of human pancreatic cancer cells, according to a study in the September 2002 issue of the journal Cancer.

Researchers treated a human pancreatic cell line with different concentrations of curcumin for two hours, then examined curcumin's effect on cancer cell growth and its effects on the production of interleukin-8, a type of protein known as a cytokine produced by white blood cells. Interleukin-8 controls inflammation and contributes to tumor growth.

Curcumin inhibited the production of interleukin-8. In addition, pretreating the cells with curcumin significantly inhibited the growth rate of cancer cells. The researchers concluded that curcumin reduces a number of interleukin-8 activities that contribute to tumor growth. The researchers concluded "curcumin is a potent anticancer agent that inhibits the production of proinflammatory cytokines, including interleukin-8, by tumor cells."

Reference: Hidaka H, Ishiko T, Furuhashi T, Kamohara H, Suzuki S, Miyazaki M, Ikeda O, Mita S, Setoguchi T, Ogawa M. Curcumin inhibits interleukin 8 production and enhances interleukin 8 receptor expression on the cell surface: impact on human pancreatic carcinoma cell growth by autocrine regulation. Cancer. 2002 Sep 15;95(6):1206-14.

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Turmeric May Be Effective Adjunct Cancer Therapy

Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric that gives the spice its yellow color, killed an impressive amount of cancer cells when teamed up with another anti-cancer agent, according to researchers at the 2002 annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

An in vitro experiment with human prostate cancer cells revealed that curcumin works together with a naturally occurring molecule called TRAIL (tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand), which helps kill cancer cells. When curcumin was combined with TRAIL, the two agents killed two to three times more cancer cells than either treatment by itself. The combination killed up to 80% of the cancer cells. Due to the success of this experiment, the researchers hope that they or another team of scientists can replicate the results in animals.

Other studies suggest turmeric is an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant and that it can help wounds heal. In animal studies, turmeric has protected against Alzheimer's. In addition, turmeric contains plant phytochemicals associated with cancer prevention.

Reference: The annual meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research, San Francisco, California. April 9, 2002.

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Turmeric and Other Herbs Inhibit Cancer

A number of herbs have the ability to inhibit cancer, with turmeric possessing the strongest anti-cancer abilities, according to researchers at the School of Pharmacy of Howard University in Washington D.C.

In studies that spanned several years, scientists evaluated 36 extracts of 32 herbs to see if any would act as anti-cancer agents.  These herbs included ginkgo biloba, black cohosh, echinacea, kava-kava, saw palmetto, turmeric, angelica, wild yam, cat's claw, passionflower, muira puama, feverfew, blueberry, chaste berry, licorice, nettle, golden seal, pygeum, ginger, valerian and hops. The researchers took cells infected with Epstein-Barr virus early antigen (EBV-EA), then exposed the cells to a tumor promoter.

The researchers discovered that turmeric exhibited the most potent anti-EBV-EA activity, ten times more than passionflower, which was next in the order of activity. Several of the herbal remedies tested inhibited the EBV-EA in cells exposed to the tumor promoter by more than 90%. Past in vitro studies have shown that agents that inhibit EBV-EA when exposed to a tumor promoter also are effective anti-tumor promoting agents in laboratory animal models.

"We report for the first time the activities of 16 new medicinal plants as potential cancer chemopreventive agents," the researchers wrote. "...our results indicate new and potential applications of these herbal remedies as cancer chemopreventive agents since they are already in clinical use in the human population."

Source: Kapadia GJ, Azuine MA, Tokuda H, Hang E, Mukainaka T, Nishino H, Sridhar R. Inhibitory effect of herbal remedies on 12-o-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate-promoted Epstein--Barr virus early antigen activation. Pharmacol Res. 2002 Mar;45(3):213-220.

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Component of Turmeric Stops the Spread of Myeloma Cancer

Researchers from the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center have discovered that curcumin, a component of the spice turmeric, can stop the spread of multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow.

In the study, published in the February 2003 issue of the journal Blood, the scientists investigated the way curcumin affected multiple myeloma cell lines. The spice-derived component stopped the activation of processes known to lead to the spread of the myeloma cells. Curcumin also triggered apoptosis – a process where cells program themselves to die – in the cancer cells.

Based on the results of their study, the researchers suggested that patients suffering from multiple myelomas be treated with this "pharmacologically safe agent."

Reference: Bharti AC, Donato N, Singh S, Aggarwal BB. Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) down-regulates the constitutive activation of nuclear factor-kappa B and Ikappa Balpha kinase in human multiple myeloma cells, leading to suppression of proliferation and induction of apoptosis. Blood. 2003 Feb 1;101(3):1053-62.

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