Boosting the Antitumor Effects of Conventional Treatments
CAN TURMERIC COMPOUNDS HAVE PHARMACOLOGICAL EFFECTS?
There's been some hesitation about using turmeric's main compound, curcumin, to treat cancer because of its low bioavailability. The good news is results of a clinical trial in people with colorectal cancer showed doses of 3,600 mg/day of curcumin produced levels high enough to act as a drug. (vi.276, 294)
Even though the measurable amount of curcumin in the blood was barely detectable, it significantly reduced PGE2. This prostaglandin is made by COX-2 enzymes and also promotes colon cancer. (vi.94, 276)
The search for substances that safely boost the effectiveness of current therapies for cancer is on the forefront of efforts at improving treatment. For example, the 5-year survival rate is still less than 80% in this common cancer. One reason for this is that over a third of colorectal tumors do not respond to FOLFOX (one of the best treatment regimens that combine different chemotherapy drugs). (vi.277, 297)
Cancer involves hundreds of dysregulated genes and the proteins they produce. This is why most first-line chemotherapy regimens currently used against colorectal cancer combine different drugs to target multiple factors. However, combination chemo treatments such as FOLFOX generally come with greater risk of toxic side effects. (vi.277)
Turmeric's compounds, especially curcumin, enhance the antitumor effects of FDA-approved drugs and therapies against colorectal cancer (including advanced metastatic tumors). These include: (vi.2, 88, 174)
- 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU)
- COX-2 inhibitors (e.g., celecoxib)
- Platinum-based chemotherapy drugs (e.g., cisplatin and oxaliplatin)
- Radiation (including gamma-radiation)
- Sulindac sulfone
Preclinical research shows the curcumin compounds in turmeric can help defeat even resistant colorectal cancer cells. Curcumin and resveratrol work particularly well together with chemotherapy to inhibit colorectal cancer growth. (vi.174, 277)
Ideally, researchers look for substances that can combine with chemotherapy or radiation and also reduce the doses typically used. The benefits of lower doses include limiting side effects and reducing the risk of ending cancer treatment early because of toxicity. Since turmeric compounds enhance the effectiveness of treatment, lower doses (including with radiation) could be used without sacrificing effectiveness. (vi.88)
Using Herbal Remedies with Conventional Therapy Increases Overall Survival
In 2011, results of a 10-year follow-up study of patients with colorectal cancer were published. The study compared the survival rates for colorectal cancer patients who used Pan-Asian herbal medicine and vitamins along with surgery, chemotherapy, and/or radiation to those who used only conventional treatments. Turmeric was one of the primary daily supplements given to the 193 patients who used herbs and vitamins, along with others such as: (vi.297)
- Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10)
- Fish oil (a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids)
- Folic acid
- N-acetyl cysteine
- Royal jelly
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
The researchers used modern analytical methods that can produce standardized results comparable to the gold standard in research for measuring treatment effectiveness. They found that patients who supplemented conventional treatment with vitamins and herbs such as turmeric dramatically improved survival rates: (vi.297)
In fact, the study suggested that traditional Chinese herbal formulas combined with daily antioxidant substances (including turmeric) could be more effective than conventional therapy. Colorectal cancer patients who used the herbs and antioxidants lived longer than patients treated with only conventional therapies (surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy). However, in most cases combining conventional and the herbal/vitamin therapies worked the best. (vi.297)
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