Leukemia Ribbon

Turmeric in the Fight against Leukemia

Leukemia is cancer of the blood. According to global statistics, in 2008 it was the 7th most common cancer in men and 11th in women. Specifically, leukemia cells are malignant immature white blood cells that uncontrollably replicate. (vi.162)

Normal blood cell formation begins in bone marrow. Accumulation of these excess cells replaces marrow and interferes with normal blood cell production. Research suggests that turmeric could help block the proliferation of these cancerous blood cells. (vi.91162)

What Causes Leukemia?

Although the exact causes are unknown, there are certain risk factors associated with leukemia. These include: (vi.195)

  • Radiation
  • Chemotherapy
  • Genetics
  • Smoking (doubles the risk for AML)
  • Environmental toxins (e.g., benzene)
  • Viruses (e.g., Epstein Barr and human T cell leukemia-lymphoma virus-1)

Oxidative Stress is Linked to Leukemia

Importantly, multiple clinical studies show a strong association between depleted natural antioxidants and high levels of free radicals in leukemia patients — a condition referred to as oxidative stress. Even after chemotherapy and during remission, these levels remain higher in those with leukemia compared to healthy people. (vi.162)

The persistent oxidative stress is linked to inflammatory conditions and a greater number of lesions in DNA strands. Turmeric and its compounds have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that could help counteract oxidative stress. Whole extract and oil forms of turmeric, as well as individual compounds from it, have been shown to reduce the growth of leukemia cells. (vi.91162)

Free Radicals

Excess free radicals can also make cancer-causing epigenetic changes on our genes. However, studies show that turmeric's curcumin compounds can block these epigenetic changes. Interestingly, high doses of curcumin actually generate ROS-type free radicals to prevent these epigenetic changes by leukemia cells. (vi.162)

What Kind of Blood Cells Are Involved in Different Types of Leukemia?

Generally speaking, leukemia involves white blood cells. There are various kinds of white blood cells, which are also called leukocytes. They serve vital roles in the immune system by protecting against disease-causing pathogens such as viruses, bacteria, parasites, and even cancer cells. Leukemia can cause high counts in sub-types of these cells. (vi.195-197)

The different types of leukemia depend upon the type of white blood cell affected: (vi.195-197)

Figure VI.12: Types of Blood Cells and Leukemia

Figure VI.12: Types of Blood Cells and Leukemia

In acute types of leukemia, symptoms develop quickly. Conversely, chronic types can take many years before exhibiting symptoms. The four general classifications for leukemia are: (vi.195-197)

Table VI.19: Leukemia Facts
TYPE PREVALENCE OTHER DETAILS
LYMPHOBLASTIC LEUKEMIAS

Acute lymphoblastic leukemia

(ALL)

Most common in children. (vi.195)

Develops from precursor lymphocyte B cells in the bone marrow. (vi.196)

Chronic lymphoblastic anemia

(CLA)

Occurs mostly in adults older than age 55. (vi.195)

Develops from lymphocyte B cells in the lymph nodes. (vi.196)

MYELOGENOUS (MYELOID) LEUKEMIAS

Acute myelogenous leukemia

(AML)

Most common type of leukemia in adults. The average age of onset is 67 years old. (vi.196198)

  • Most deadly (survival usually only weeks to months). (vi.198)
  • Increased incidence after atomic bombs in Japan. (vi.196)

Chronic myelogenous leukemia

(CML)

Occurs mostly in adults in their 50s and 60s; slightly more prevalent in men. (vi.195-196)

  • Symptoms include fatigue, abdominal pain from enlarged spleen and liver, and weight loss. (vi.196)
  • Blood tests show indications of anemia and elevated white blood cell count (especially basophils and neutrophils). (vi.196)
  • Majority of cases have an abnormal fusion of genes. This fusion produces a certain type of protein and increased tyrosine kinase activity, which leads to development of CML. (vi.196)
  • Drugs that block activation of tyrosine kinase dramatically improve survival. (vi.196)

Conventional Treatments

Standard treatment includes: (vi.195-196)

  • Antibody immunotherapy
  • Blood transfusions
  • Chemotherapy (e.g., imatinib for CML)
  • Interferon
  • Radiation
  • Stem cell transplants

Curcumin Activity against Leukemia

Lab and animal experiments show that turmeric's curcumin compounds have a number of effects against the different types of leukemia: (vi.114156-57162199)

Table VI.20: Evidence of Turmeric's Curcumin Compounds Effects in Leukemia
TYPE OF LEUKEMIA WHAT IT DOES WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?

CML

(K562 cell line)

STAT transcription factors

NF-κB and AP-1 transcription factors

Caspases -8 & -9

Inflammatory conditions that promote cancer.

Formation of new blood vessels that feed cancer growth and spread.

Cancer cell growth.

Cancer cell resistance to cell death.

Apoptotic cancer cell death.

ALL

Pl3 kinase enzyme

Akt and NF-κB transcription factors

p53 tumor suppressor

Apoptotic cancer cell death.

Survival time.

AML

(Erythroleukemia caused by a virus.)

Bcl-2 inhibitor of apoptosis

Raf-1 oncogene

p53 tumor suppressor

Survival time.

Cancer progression.

Anemia.

Infiltration of spleen.

AML

(HL-60 cell line)

NF-κB transcription factor

P21 and p27 tumor suppressors

Cyclin D3 cell cycle protein

CHOP transcription factor

Bax pro-apoptotic protein

Caspases -3 & -8

Bcl-2 inhibitor of apoptosis

MMP enzymes

ERSR, which promotes apoptosis.

Apoptotic cancer cell death.

Cancer cell proliferation, especially when combined with vitamin D3.

Potential for cancer to metastasize.

CLL

(T-cell leukemia)

JAK

STAT3 transcription factor

Cancer cell growth.

Apoptotic cancer cell death.

CLL

(B-cell)

Akt, STAT3 and NF-κB transcription factors

Mcl-1 and XIAP survival proteins

Apoptotic cancer cell death.

Chemoresistance, especially when administered right before green tea extract.

Additionally, curcumin has been shown to protect lymphocytes against toxic chemotherapy agents. In the lab, it also stimulates phagocytosis — one of the ways the immune system's leukocytes get rid of microbes. This suggests curcumin could help protect susceptible leukemia patients from deadly infections(vi.162)

Other Turmeric Compounds That May Help Block Leukemia

Turmeric contains phytochemical compounds and nutrients in addition to curcumin that research suggests could also help fight leukemia. These include:

Table VI.21: Turmeric's Phytochemical and Nutrient Effects in Leukemia
TURMERIC COMPOUND EFFECTS

1,8-CINEOLE (vi.71-72)

(also known as eucalyptol)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

ALPHA-PINENE (vi.71-72)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

ALPHA-TERPINEOL (vi.7174)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

AR-TURMERONE (vi.74)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.91)

BETA-SITOSTEROL (vi.71138)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.78)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.78)

Caspase-3, an enzyme that induces cell death. (vi.141)

Inhibitors of apoptosis (proteins that help cancer cells survive). (vi.78)

CAFFEIC ACID (vi.74)

Kills myelogenous leukemia cancer cells by breaking up DNA strands. (vi.194)

EUGENOL (vi.74)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

FARNESENE & FARNESOL (vi.110163200)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

GERANIOL (vi.112)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

LIMONENE (vi.74)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.139)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.139)

Tumor suppressor proteins(vi.139)

Caspase-3 and caspase-9, enzymes that carry out cell death. (vi.141)

Inhibitors of apoptosis (proteins that help cancer cells survive). (vi.139)

MYRICETIN (vi.79)

Growth of AML cells. (vi.194)

Toxic to AML cancer cells. (vi.194)

QUERCETIN (vi.79)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.201)

Kinase proteins that stimulate enzymes which promote death of cancer cells. (vi.140)

Leukemia cells from replicating. (vi.155)

Cancer cell death. (vi.140)

RESVERATROL (vi.83)

Breaks up DNA and kills myelogenous leukemia cancer cells. (vi.194)

ρ-CYMENE (vi.71-72)

Growth of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

Death of leukemia cells. (vi.153)

Control switches for phases of the cell growth cycle. (vi.106)
Enzymes that enhance, stimulate, or suppress other proteins. (vi.118)
Enzymes that enhance, stimulate, or suppress other proteins. (vi.118)
Enzymes that enhance, stimulate, or suppress other proteins. (vi.118)
First responders that trigger gene activity. (vi.39)
First responders that trigger gene activity. (vi.39)
First responders that trigger gene activity. (vi.39)
First responders that trigger gene activity. (vi.39)
First responders that trigger gene activity. (vi.39)
First responders that trigger gene activity. (vi.39)
Acute myelogenous leukemia
P210. (vi.195)
Epigallocatechin-3 gallate (EGCG). (vi.162)
Specifically, mutant p53 and bcl-2. (vi.78)
Specifically, bax. (vi.139)
Specifically, mutant p53 and bcl-2. (vi.139)
Such as caspases(vi.140)

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