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.276294)

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.94276)

Lower levels of PGE2 indicates there's less COX-2 to form it. Thus, even at almost undetectable levels, the turmeric compound is a potent COX-2 inhibitor in colorectal cancer patients. (vi.94276)

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.277297)

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.288174)

The compounds in turmeric boost the effectiveness
  • 5-Fluorouracil (5-FU)
  • Capecitabine
  • COX-2 inhibitors (e.g., celecoxib)
  • Danorubicin
  • Doxorubicin
  • Platinum-based chemotherapy drugs (e.g., cisplatin and oxaliplatin)
  • Radiation (including gamma-radiation)
  • Sulindac sulfone
  • Vinscritin

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.174277)

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)

Dramatically improved survival rates

Various Chinese formulas (containing herbs such as turmeric, astragalus, and ginseng, as well as many others) were also prescribed based on symptoms. (vi.297)

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)

Figure VI.19: Effect of Integrative Medicine on Survival Rates for Colorectal Cancer

Figure VI.19: Effect of Integrative Medicine on Survival Rates for Colorectal Cancer

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)

Astragalus membranaceus, A. mongholicus(vi.303)
Camellia sinensis, C. thea, C. theifera, Thea sinensis, T. viridis(vi.303)
Amount and length of time substance stays in a targeted organ. (vi.294)
Patient data from 2 large cancer registries in the state of California. (vi.297)
Including MDs and PhDs from the University of California and the Chinese Academy of Sciences, as well as the Pine Street Foundation. (vi.297)
Randomized, controlled clinical trials. (vi.297)

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