Research shows that Curcumin, the name for the active ingredients in the herb Turmeric inhibit inflammation. A new study led by a research team at Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) in Munich now shows that it may also inhibit the spread of some very-common cancers. Prostate cancer is one of the most common cancers in the Western world. According to the report it is often diagnosed only after it has spread to other sites; a process known as metastasis. In three percent of cases, these metastases are lethal.
The research team from LMU led by Dr. Beatrice Bachmeier has been studying how Curcumin inhibits the formation of metastases. Curcumin is well tolerated and is therefore, in principle, suitable both for preventing the formation of prostate cancer to begin with and also for the suppression of metastases in cases where an established tumor is already present (secondary prevention). In a previous study Dr. Bachmeier and her colleagues demonstrated that in animals with advanced breast cancer Curcumin blocks the spread of the tumor to the lungs and the effect was statistically significant blocking metastasis.
The new study was designed to investigate the efficacy of curcumin in the prevention of prostate cancer metastases, and to determine the agent's mechanism of action. The researchers first examined the molecular processes that are abnormally regulated in prostate cancer cells. Breast and prostate cancers are often associated with inflammatory reactions, and in both cases, the tumor cells were found to produce pro-inflammatory immunomodulators (influencers of the immune system) including the cytokines CXCL1 und CXCL2.
The researchers went on to show that curcumin specifically decreases the expression of these two cytokines, and in a mouse model, this effect correlated with a decrease in the incidence of the spread of cancer. "Due to the action of curcumin, the tumor cells synthesize smaller amounts of cytokines that promote metastasis," says Dr. Bachmeier. "As a consequence, the frequency of metastasis formation in the lungs is significantly reduced, in animals with breast cancer, as we showed previously, or carcinoma of the prostate, as demonstrated in our new study."
Dr. Bachmeier therefore believes that curcumin may be useful in the prevention of breast and prostate cancers -- which are both linked to inflammation -- and in reducing their metastatic potential. "This does not mean that the compound should be seen as a replacement for conventional therapies. However, it could play a positive role in primary prevention -- before a full-blown tumor arises -- or help to avert formation of metastases. In this context the fact that the substance is well tolerated is very important, because one can safely recommend it to individuals who have an increased tumor risk."
A daily intake of up to 8g of curcumin is regarded as safe, and its anti-inflammatory properties have long been exploited in traditional oriental medicine. Men with benign hyperplasia of the prostate (BHP) are one possible target group for prophylaxis, as are women who have a family history of breast cancer. The agent might also be valuable as a supplement to certain cancer therapies. At all events, Curcumin's beneficial effects must first be confirmed in controlled clinical tests. Bachmeier is now planning such a trial in patients who suffer from therapy-resistant carcinoma of the prostate.
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