Potent spice works to block growth of melanoma in lab test

HOUSTON - Curcumin, the pungent yellow spice found in both turmeric and curry powders, blocks a key biological pathway needed for development of melanoma and other cancers, say researchers from The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

The study, to be published in the August 15, 2005 issue of the journal Cancer, but available on line at 12:01 a.m. (EDT) on Monday, July 11, demonstrates how curcumin stops laboratory strains of melanoma from proliferating and pushes the cancer cells to commit suicide.

It does this, researchers say, by shutting down nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-kB), a powerful protein known to promote an abnormal inflammatory response that leads to a variety of disorders, including arthritis and cancer.

The study is the latest to suggest that curcumin has potent anticancer powers, say the researchers.

"The antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties of curcumin derived from turmeric are undergoing intense research here and at other places worldwide," says one of the study's authors, Bharat B. Aggarwal, Ph.D., professor of cancer medicine in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics.

At M. D. Anderson, for example, dramatic results from laboratory studies have led to two ongoing Phase I human clinical trials, testing the ability of daily capsules of curcumin powder to retard growth of pancreatic cancer and multiple myeloma. Another Phase I trial is planned for patients with breast cancer, and given this news of curcumin's activity in melanoma, animal studies will soon begin, Aggarwal says.

Ground from the root of the Curcuma longa plant, curcumin is a member of the ginger family. It has long been utilized in India and other Asian nations for multiple uses: as a food-preservative, a coloring agent, a folk medicine to cleanse the body, and as a spice to flavor food (two to five percent of turmeric is curcumin, for example).

While researchers had thought curcumin prima

Contact: Heather Sessions
University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center

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