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Curcumin

Curcumin is a polyphenol derived from the rhizome of the plant curcuma longa, a member of the ginger (Zingiberaceae) family. Also known as turmeric, Indian yellow root or Indian saffron, is cultivated throughout Asia and used extensively as a spice. Curcumin also has a long history of use as a botanical medicine in both traditional Chinese and Indian (Ayurvedic) medicine to treat a wide variety of conditions. In these traditions, it is usually prescribed along with piperine (black pepper) to improve absorption from the GI tract.

Efficacy

The weight of the experimental data suggests that curcumin favorably affects several key processes in carcinogenesis including promotion of apoptosis and inhibition of inflammation, angiogenesis, cell motility and metastasis. Trials have begun at MD Anderson to evaluate efficacy of curcumin in the treatment of many different types of cancer. Curcumin has been shown to reduce colon polyps in human trials.

There is an impressive amount of peer-reviewed literature on curcumin, including more than 600 publications on PubMed describing curcumin's effect on carcinogenesis.

Pre-clinical studies have shown that Curcumin is a potent anti-inflammatory and that it interferes with carcinogenesis via various mechanisms, including inhibition of pro-inflammatory cytokines and inhibition of specific genes involved in inflammation and leukocyte recruitment. Other effects described in the literature include promotion of apoptosis, interference angiogenesis, reduction in cancer cell motility and possibly synergistic effects with some chemotherapeutic agents and radiotherapy. Effects have been shown in almost every type of cell line.

There are currently limited data on the effects of curcumin in combination with conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy, however initial reports suggest that curcumin may sensitize cancer cells to cisplatin, may reduce resistance of cancer cells to chemotherapy, and may act synergistically to radiation therapy.

Safety

Oral administration of curcumin in doses up to 8-10 grams per day have been shown to be safe for human consumption.

Recommendations

Curcumin is perhaps the most widely researched botanical in oncology. It is safe for oral administration in humans and is recommended to prevent recurrences and as anti-cancer therapy. Patients taking curcumin during chemotherapy and radiation treatments should be carefully monitored as curcumin has been shown to act synergistically with chemotherapy.

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  • Zheng, M., S. Ekmekcioglu, et al. (2004). "Inhibition of nuclear factor-kappaB and nitric oxide by curcumin induces G2/M cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in human melanoma cells." Melanoma Res 14(3): 165-71.
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