ANN ARBOR, Mich. A new study finds that compounds derived from the spices turmeric and pepper could help prevent breast cancer by limiting the growth of stem cells, the small number of cells that fuel a tumor's growth.
Researchers at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that when the dietary compounds curcumin, which is derived from the Indian spice turmeric, and piperine, derived from black peppers, were applied to breast cells in culture, they decreased the number of stem cells while having no effect on normal differentiated cells.
"If we can limit the number of stem cells, we can limit the number of cells with potential to form tumors," says lead author Madhuri Kakarala, M.D., Ph.D., R.D., clinical lecturer in internal medicine at the U-M Medical School and a research investigator at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System.
Cancer stem cells are the small number of cells within a tumor that fuel the tumor's growth. Current chemotherapies do not work against these cells, which is why cancer recurs and spreads. Researchers believe that eliminating the cancer stem cells is key to controlling cancer. In addition, decreasing the number of normal stem cells unspecialized cells that can give rise to any type of cell in that organ can decrease the risk of cancer.
In this study, a solution of curcumin and piperine was applied to the cell cultures at the equivalent of about 20 times the potency of what could be consumed through diet. The compounds are available at this potency in a capsule form that could be taken by mouth. (Note: This work has not been tested in patients, and patients are not encouraged to add curcumin or piperine supplements to their diet at this time.)
The researchers applied a series of tests to the cells, looking at markers for breast stem cells and the effects of curcumin and piperine, both alone and combined, on the stem cell levels. They found that piperine enhanced the e
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University of Michigan Health System