Turmeric fights breast cancer in mice - study
By Maggie Fox, Health and Science CorrespondentThu Jun 9, 4:19
Turmeric, a yellow spice used widely in Indian cooking, may help
stop the spread of cancer, U.S. researchers reported on
Tests in mice showed that curcumin, an active compound found in
turmeric, helped stop the spread of breast cancer tumor cells to
Tests have already started in people, too, said Bharat Aggarwal
of the Department of Experimental Therapeutics at the University
of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, who led the
"Here you don't need to worry about safety. The only thing we
have to worry about is efficacy," Aggarwal said in a telephone
"Curcumin, as you know, is very much an essential part of the
Indian diet," he added.
"What's exciting about this agent is that it seems to have both
chemopreventive and therapeutic properties. If we can
demonstrate that it is efficacious in humans, it could be of
tremendous value, but we're a long way from being able to make
any recommendations yet," Aggarwal said.
Earlier research showed that curcumin, which acts as an
antioxidant, can help prevent tumors from forming in the
For their study, Aggarwal and colleagues injected mice with
human breast cancer cells -- a batch of cells grown from a
patient whose cancer had spread to the lungs.
The resulting tumors were allowed to grow, and then surgically
removed, to simulate a mastectomy, Aggarwal said. Then the mice
either got no additional treatment; curcumin alone; the cancer
drug paclitaxel, which is sold under the brand name Taxol; or
curcumin plus Taxol.
Half the mice in the curcumin-only group and 22 percent of those
in the curcumin plus Taxol group had evidence of breast cancer
that had spread to the lungs, Aggarwal said in a study to be
presented to a breast cancer research meeting in Philadelphia.
But 75 percent of animals that got Taxol alone and 95 percent of
those that got no treatment developed lung tumors.
Aggarwal said earlier studies suggest that people who eat diets
rich in turmeric have lower rates of breast cancer, prostate
cancer, lung cancer and colon cancer.
His team would like to try giving curcumin to women who know
they have a high risk of breast cancer -- such as those who have
a mother or sister with the disease.
No drug company is likely to develop a natural product that
cannot be patented, he said. "There are no companies behind it
so our only source of funding is either the National Institutes
of Health or the Department of Defense," he said.
This study was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense's Breast
Cancer Research Program.
Aggarwal's team is also testing curcumin against pancreatic
cancer and multiple myeloma.