September 25, 2006

Curcumin blocks hormone involved in colorectal cancer

In a report that appeared in the September 15, 2006 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research, researchers at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston described their finding that curcumin, a compound contained in the spice turmeric, blocks the activity of a gastrointestinal hormone that is involved in the development of colorectal cancer. Curcumin has previously been discovered to help combat a variety of tumor cells, and has been shown to help reduce colon polyps in one small clinical trial.

In research with cell cultures, University of Texas Medical Branch surgery professor B. Mark Evers and his colleagues found that curcumin blocks the activity of a hormone produced in response to the consumption of fat called neurotensin, which they linked to the production of the inflammatory protein interleukin-8. Interleukin-8 increases the growth and spread of human colorectal, pancreatic and other cancer cells. Curcumin acts by reducing biochemical signals within the cell that neurotensin utilizes, thereby lowering the production of interleukin-8.

"We found that in colon cancer cells, neurotensin increases not just the rate of growth but also other critical things, including cell migration and metastasis," Dr Evers noted. "The fact that all that can be turned off by this natural product, curcumin, was really remarkable."

"Our findings suggest that curcumin may be useful for colon cancer treatment, as well as potential colon cancer suppression, in cells that respond to this gastrointestinal hormone, neurotensin," Dr Evers concluded. "About a third of all colorectal cancer cells have the receptor for neurotensin. Thus, the concept would be sort of like what we do for breast and prostate cancer, where the main therapy involves blocking hormones. We hope to do similar things with gastrointestinal cancers that respond to this hormone."