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Health News Archive 601 - Cancer
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Curcumin's Anti-Cancer Mechanism Explained

Scientists from the University of Alabama have reported a mechanism by which curcumin, the active ingredient in the turmeric spice, protects against cancer.

The study, published in the journal Cancer Research, adds weight to the growing body of science linking consumption of the spice to decreased risk of certain cancers, like colorectal and prostate cancer.

Using PC-3 human prostate cancer cell lines grown in vitro, the researchers observed that curcumin decreased the expression of a protein associated with malignant tumor formation called MDM2. The turmeric extract was also found to increase the expression of a protein that increases programmed cell death (apoptosis) of the cancer cells.

To test the efficacy of curcumin in vivo, the researchers grafted PC-3 prostate cancer cells into a group of nude mice, and then assigned each group to receive either curcumin or cottonseed oil (placebo) orally for five days per week for four weeks.

The curcumin-fed mice were further divided into three groups with five animals per group. One group continued to receive only curcumin supplements, while the others received curcumin in conjunction with the chemotherapy agent gemcitabine or curcumin in conjunction with radiotherapy.

"Curcumin inhibited growth of PC3 xenografts and enhanced the antitumor effects of gemcitabine and radiation. In these tumors, curcumin reduced the expression of MDM2," wrote the researchers. "Down-regulation of the MDM2 oncogene by curcumin is a novel mechanism of action that may be essential for its chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic effects," they concluded.

Writing on, Ricardo Sanchez-Ortiz, MD, who was not involved in the study, said: "These exciting data suggest that this dietary supplement should be studied in combination with traditional forms of chemotherapy or radiotherapy in tumors dependent on the MDM2 pathway."

Source: M. Li, Z. Zhang, D.L. Hill, H. Wang, and R. Zhang. Curcumin, a Dietary Component, Has Anticancer, Chemosensitization, and Radiosensitization Effects by Down-regulating the MDM2 Oncogene through the PI3K/mTOR/ETS2 Pathway Cancer Research; March 2007, Volume 67, Number 5, Pages 1988-1996, doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-06-3066

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