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Curry Spice Kills Cancer Cells

Guest Phillip

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Guest Phillip

MOLECULES found in a curry spice have been shown to kill oesophageal cancer cells in the laboratory, reveals research published in the British Journal of Cancer today (Wednesday - 27th October 2009).


Scientists at the Cork Cancer Research Centre, University College Cork (UCC), treated oesophageal cancer cells with curcumin** – a chemical found in the curry spice turmeric. They found that curcumin started to kill cancer cells within 24 hours. The cells also began to digest themselves. The results additionally showed that curcumin kills cells by triggering lethal cell death signals.


“These exciting results suggest that scientists could develop curcumin as a potential anti-cancer drug to treat oesophageal cancer,” says Dr Sharon McKenna, lead study author at the Cork Cancer Research Centre, UCC.


“Scientists have known for a long time that natural compounds have the potential to treat faulty cells that have become cancerous and we suspected that curcumin might have therapeutic value. Dr Geraldine O’Sullivan-Coyne, a medical researcher in our lab had been looking for new ways of killing resistant oesophageal cancer cells. She tested curcurmin on resistant cells and found that they started to die using an unexpected system of cell messages.”


Normally, faulty cells die by committing programmed suicide – or apoptosis – which occurs when proteins called caspases are ‘switched on’ in cells. But these cells showed no evidence of suicide and the addition of a molecule that inhibits caspases and stops this ‘switch being flicked’, made no difference to the number of cells which died. This suggested that curcumin attacked the cancer cells using an alternative cell signalling system.


Each year around 350 people are diagnosed with oesophageal cancer in Ireland (7,800 in the UK). Less than 20 per cent of people survive oesophageal cancer beyond five years. It is the seventh most common cause of cancer death and accounts for around four per cent of all Irish cancer deaths.


According to Professor Gerald O’Sullivan, Director of the Cork Cancer Research Centre at UCC, the research opens up the possibility that natural chemicals found in tumeric could be developed into new treatments for oesophageal cancer.


“The incidence of oesophageal cancer has gone up by more than a half since the 70s, particularly in the Western world and this is thought to be linked to rising rates of obesity, alcohol intake and reflux disease, so finding ways to both treat and prevent this disease is extremely important. The development of natural compounds as chemo-preventative agents is also a very promising area of research”.

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Guest Greenzen

When curcumin (from turmeric) and piperine (from black peppers) were applied to breast cells in the laboratory, the number of stem cells decreased, but there was no change in normal cells, say researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.


The study appears online in the journal Breast Cancer Research and Treatment.


The cancer stem cell hypothesis proposes that cancers arise in tissue stem cells through dysregulation of the normally, tightly regulated process of self-renewal or in progenitor

cells through acquisition of this capacity.


If stem/progenitor cells are targets for transformation, then strategies aimed at limiting these cell populations through inhibition of self-renewal represent rational cancer preventive strategies.


Curcumin and piperine have the potential of being less toxic than compounds such as tamoxifen, which affect the bulk differentiated cell populations.


A modest amount of Curcumin and piperine in your diet could be an effective approach in cancer prevention.



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Guest Health Nut

The rhizomes are boiled for several hours and then dried in hot ovens, after which they are ground into a deep orange-yellow powder commonly used as a spice in curries and other South Asian and Middle Eastern cuisine, for dyeing, and to impart color to mustard condiments. Its active ingredient is curcumin and it has a distinctly earthy, slightly bitter, slightly hot peppery flavor and a mustardy smell.


In medieval Europe, turmeric became known as Indian Saffron, since it was widely used as an alternative to the far more expensive saffron spice.


Turmeric (Curcuma longa) is a rhizomatous herbaceous perennial plant of the ginger family, Zingiberaceae. It is native to tropical South Asia and needs temperatures between 20°C and 30°C, and a considerable amount of annual rainfall to thrive (Materia Indica, 1826, Whitelaw Ainslie, M.D. M.R.A.S., via Google Books). Plants are gathered annually for their rhizomes, and re-seeded from some of those rhizomes in the following season.

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