Curcumin, the main component in the spice turmeric, suppresses a cell signaling pathway that drives the growth of head and neck cancer, according to a pilot study using human saliva by researchers at UCLA's Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.
The inhibition of the cell signaling pathway also correlated with reduced expression of a number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, or signaling molecules, in the saliva that promote cancer growth, said Dr. Marilene Wang, a professor of head and neck surgery, senior author of the study and a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher.
"This study shows that curcumin can work in the mouths of patients with head and neck malignancies and reduce activities that promote cancer growth," Wang said. "And it not only affected the cancer by inhibiting a critical cell signaling pathway, it also affected the saliva itself by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines within the saliva."
The study appears Sept. 15 in Clinical Cancer Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.
Turmeric is a naturally occurring spice widely used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking and 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. In India, women for years have been using turmeric as an anti-aging agent rubbed into their skin, to treat cramps during menstruation and as a poultice on the skin to promote wound healing.
A 2005 study by Wang and her team first showed that curcumin suppressed the growth of head and neck cancer, first in cells and then in mouse models. In the animal studies, the curcumin was applied directly onto the tumors in paste form. In a 2010 study, also done in cells and in mouse models, the research team found that the curcumin suppressed head and neck cancer growth by regulating cell cycling, said scientist Eri Srivatsan, an adjunct pr
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University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences