The use of curcumin as a cancer prevention agent in bowel cancer

Curcumin may be used as prevention agent and in the treatment of in bowel cancer. Understanding the underlying mechanisms of how this occurs can help us improve bowel cancer treatment.

Colorectal cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK and the incidence rate is increasing. It represents the second most common cause of cancer death. Therapies to prevent or delay the onset of colorectal cancer as well as improvements to established treatment options are urgently needed.

Recent studies have found that a small subset of cells termed cancer stem-like cells (CSCs) in tumours may be the cause of cancer development. In some patients these cells were also found to be resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy, making the cancer hard to treat. If CSCs can be targeted before tissues become cancerous, cancer can be prevented in people thought to be at high-risk of getting cancer. Current bowel cancer treatments can also be enhanced to improve survival rates.

Curcumin and its anti-cancer effects

The Cancer Chemoprevention Group has found that in the lab, the turmeric constituent curcumin is able to selectively target colorectal CSCs to stop cancer cell growth. In mice, curcumin delayed tumour growth and increased their survival rate. From these positive results, curcumin could be a good candidate as a safe and non-toxic therapeutic agent. It is hoped that curcumin is also able to target CSCs in human colorectal cancer tissues.

This funded group has found that curcumin may work against cancer cells by binding to a specific protein to reduce cell division, which is what results in the growth of a tumour. In this project, the mechanism of how this happens will be tested and understanding of how this happens will be achieved. A clinical trial will be undertaken to further test if curcumin does affect the role of this protein for anticancer effects. This will allow larger clinical trials in the future using curcumin in colorectal and also breast cancer.

This is the second project funded by HOPE where the use of curcumin in bowel cancer is studied. The first project studies the use of curcumin with chemotherapy drugs in a clinical trial.


More information (links open in new tab):

2012 clinical trial funded by Hope Against Cancer using curcumin

Studies and using turmeric in cooking

Bowel cancer