Curcumin, in Indian curry spice, may beat down prostate tumors
An Indian curry spice contains an element that appeared to help slow the growth of prostate cancer cells in both a petri dish and in mice. But rather than encouraging men to eat mounds of pungent but tasty South Asian dishes, researchers led by professor Karen Knudsen of Thomas Jefferson University see a potential pharmaceutical in the making.
The scientists believe that curcumin, an element of the turmeric spice, could form the basis of a drug that helps block androgen receptor signaling, something that could be used along with androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) to help boost its effectiveness. Androgen is a male hormone that fuels prostate cancer growth, and it turns out that ADT can't always keep the prostate cancer from spreading.
"Curcumin may prove to be a promising therapeutic agent," Knudsen said as part of an announcement touting the research news. The journal Cancer Research has published details of the study.
This will take lots of work to prove. But curcumin may actually prove to be a fairly potent new drug candidate because it suppresses both the p300 and CPB nuclear receptor activators, which appear to help tumor cells bypass ADT and reactivate androgen production, fueling further cancer growth. The same receptor activators also play a role in breast and other cancers, Knudsen notes, which gives reason to test the spice more broadly. (Curcumin, by the way, has already been tested in other cancers with some early promise--even with nanoparticles!)
If successful, curcumin could prove to be the first food-based drug candidate since resveratol to generate serious buzz. Resveratol, a component derived from grapes and red wine, has been touted as an anti-aging drug that works by stimulating sirtuin enzymes in the body. But some researchers now question its effectiveness (as well as the benefit sirtuins actually bring).
Knudsen's team basically tested hormone-deprived ADT-treated prostate cancer cells both with curcumin and without. They found that the curcumin boosted the ADT performance, and that the spice blocked prostate cancer cell growth and survival. Similarly, the curcumin helped boost ADT results in castrated mice.