DALLAS A recently published study found that BCM-95 curcumin may improve cancer treatment, both directly with its activity against cancer cells and indirectly by sensitizing cancer cells to the effect of chemotherapy (PLoS One. 2014 Jan 3;9(1):e85397). In a cancer preventative role, BCM-95 curcumin was also shown to reduce cellular DNA damage that can lead to cancer. The study involved colorectal cancer cells that were treated with either 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU), a common chemotherapeutic agent used for colorectal cancer, or a combination of 5-FU and curcumin. The study was conducted at Baylor University Medical Center. BCM-95 Curcumin has high absorption and inclusion of turmeric essential oil, not found in standard curcumin. Therefore, results may not apply to other forms of curcumin.
One of the problems with chemotherapy is that cancer cells can become resistant to its effects, so higher and higher doses of the chemo must be used. This results in a great deal of damage to healthy tissue and an increase in serious adverse effects. We wanted to see how curcumin might improve chemotherapys ability to kill cancer cells," said Ajay Goel, Ph.D., on of the study's authors and director of epigenetics and cancer prevention at Baylor Research Institute, Baylor University Medical Center.
To test the effectiveness of curcumin on colorectal cancer, high density 3D cultures of colorectal cancer cell lines and their corresponding isogenic 5-FU-chemo resistant derivative clones were treated with 5-FU both with and without curcumin. The effects of curcumin in enhancing chemosensitivity to 5-FU were supported by its ability to suppress cancer stem cell pools as shown by a decreased number of cancer stem cell marker positive cells. The study also found that curcumin can help kill DNA mismatch repair defective cells as well. These cells allow for the accumulation of mutations in key genes and permit the growth of cancer cells.
Curcumin was able to induce death in colorectal cancer cells that have become resistant to chemotherapy, even super-high doses of toxic chemotherapy. The ability of this form of curcumin to chemo-sensitize and induce death in these cells that can evade even the notoriously toxic chemo drugs is significant," Goel said. It demonstrates that curcumin can regulate many more cancer-targets within cancer cells, which conventional chemotherapy fails to do. Additionally, curcumin specifically helped kill colon cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are the Achilles Heel of cancer chemotherapy, because patients may respond to chemotherapy initially, but experience tumor recurrence and/or resistance to chemotherapy subsequently. The ability of curcumin to help kill cancer stem cells is unique, and very encouraging."