Phase II clinical trial of Curcumin in patients with advanced pancreatic cancer

July 14, 2009

Pancreatic cancer is virtually always lethal, and the only FDA-approved therapies- gemcitabine (Gemzar) and erlotinib (Tarceva) - produce a true response in less than 10% of patients. Curcumin is derived from the herb Turmeric. This compound inhibits NF-kappa B transcription factor (an inflammatory factor central to pancreatic cancer growth) and has substantial antitumor activity in preclinical models.

In this study researchers from the M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston evaluated the toxicity and anti-tumor activity of Curcumin, and its impact on survival in 11 patients. The patients received 8 grams of Curcumin by mouth daily for two months. Maintenance therapy was continued at the same dose and schedule until disease progression. Eleven patients were evaluable for response and 15 were evaluable for toxicity. To date, four patients have stable disease (two after 2 months, one at 3 months and one at 7 months) and one patient had a brief partial remission (73% reduction in tumor size) that lasted one month. No toxicities have been observed. The researchers conclude that Curcumin is well tolerated and preliminary results suggest biologic activity in pancreatic cancer. The study is published in the June 20, 2006 Supplement of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.