Curcumin, the major component in the spice turmeric, when combined with the drug Cisplatin enhances the chemotherapy's suppression of head and neck cancer cell growth, researchers with UCLA's Jonsson Cancer Center have found.
A naturally occurring spice widely used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, Turmeric has long been known to have medicinal properties, attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects. Previous studies have shown it can suppress the growth of certain cancers, said Dr. Marilene Wang, a professor of head and neck surgery, lead author of the study and a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher.
"Head and neck cancers, particularly cases diagnosed in a later stage, are terrible cancers that often require very radical surgeries and chemotherapy and radiation," Wang said. "They often don't present until late, and the structures in the head and neck are so vital that our treatments often cause disfigurement and severe loss of function. So using non-toxic curcumin as a treatment was a very appealing idea."
The study, done in cells in Petri dishes and then in mouse models, appears in the October issue of the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.
In India, women for years have been using turmeric for medicinal purposes, as an anti-aging agent rubbed into their ski, to treat cramps during menstruation, as a poultice on the skin to promote wound healing and as an additive in cosmetics, said scientist Eri Srivatsan, an adjunct professor of surgery and a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher who, along with Wang, has been studying curcumin and its anti-cancer properties for six years.
A 2005 study by Wang and Srivatsan first showed that curcumin suppressed the growth of head and neck cancer cells, first in cells and then in mouse models. In the animal studies, the curcumin was applied directly onto the tumors in paste form because it did not dissolve in saline, which would have allowed it to be injected.
|Contact: Kim Irwin|
University of California -- Los Angeles