Scientists find turmeric and black pepper spices may prevent breast cancer
(NaturalNews) Seasoning food with turmeric and black pepper can do more
than just spice up a meal. Researchers at the University of Michigan
(U-M) Comprehensive Cancer Center have found that the compounds
curcumin, which is derived from turmeric, and piperine, derived from
black pepper, could play an important role in preventing and even
treating breast cancer.
Previous research has already provided evidence that curcumin and
piperine may be potential cancer treatments. However, the new U-M study,
just published online in the journal Breast Cancer Research and
Treatment, is the first to suggest exactly how these natural spice
compounds could prevent cancer. The research shows curcumin and piperine
target stem cells (unspecialized cells that can give rise to any type of
cell in an organ). This is of major significance because cancer stem
cells comprise the small number of cells inside a tumor that fuel the
growth of malignancies.
Current chemotherapy agents are useless against these cells -- that's
why cancer can recur and spread despite rounds of heavy duty, toxic
chemo. But if cancer stem cells could be eliminated and/or their growth
shut down, cancer should be controlled.
"If we can limit the number of stem cells, we can limit the number of
cells with potential to form tumors," lead author Madhuri Kakarala,
M.D., Ph.D., a clinical lecturer in internal medicine at the U-M Medical
School and a research investigator at the VA Ann Arbor Healthcare
System, said in a statement to the media. And the new study shows
curcumin and piperine work along these lines. The spice derivatives are
able to do what chemo can't -- they limit the self-renewal of stem cells.
Killing cancer cells with zero toxicity to healthy cells
For the U-M study, the research team applied a solution of curcumin and
piperine to cell cultures at the equivalent of about 20 times the
potency of what a person would take in through diet. Then a series of
tests were performed on the cells to look at markers for breast stem
cells and the effect curcumin and piperine had on the levels of stem cells.
The result? Piperine enhanced the effects of curcumin and the compounds
interrupted the self-renewal process that is the hallmark of stem cells
which initiate cancer. More good news: the compounds had no effect on
the normal process of cell development known as cell differentiation.
That means the spice compounds are not toxic to normal breast tissue.
"Women at high risk of breast cancer right now can choose to take the
drugs tamoxifen or raloxifene for prevention, but most women won't take
these drugs because there is too much toxicity. The concept that dietary
compounds can help is attractive, and curcumin and piperine appear to
have very low toxicity," Dr. Kakarala stated.
In addition, tamoxifen and raloxifene are designed to target estrogen.
But not all breast cancers are estrogen driven. In fact, the most
aggressive and deadly forms of breast cancer that are more likely to
occur in women with strong family histories of the disease or with a
specific genetic susceptibility to breast cancer are typically not
affected by estrogen and tend to be difficult to treat. But due to the
fact curcumin and piperine limit the self-renewal of stem cells, the
spice compounds could impact malignancies whether they are estrogen
sensitive or not.
Dr. Kakarala and colleagues are moving forward on an initial Phase 1
clinical trial in people to determine the best tolerated dose of
curcumin and piperine. The study is expected to start signing on
volunteer research subjects in spring of 2010.