Curry spice may help fight oesophageal cancer

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Welsh researchers apparently believe a spice used in curry may possibly prevent people from developing cancer of the gullet.

For the past 18 months researchers at Swansea University's Institute of Life Science have been testing the effects of curcumin on cultured cancer cells.

Following promising laboratory trials, when it was found that a compound found in turmeric blocked a protein that helped the disease develop, some patients at Morriston Hospital at risk from oesophageal cancer will be given curcumin tablets.

People in India have a much lower incidence rate of certain gastro-intestinal (GI) tract cancers than other pats of the world, and it has been suspected by scientists for a long time that the spices in curry may act as anti-cancer agents.

Turmeric is a spice used in many Indian dishes and one of the compounds is curcumin, which was used in the initial laboratory tests.

The researchers believe if curcumin is effective it may be a way of preventing people developing oesophageal cancer.

In the yrial data showed it inhibited the activity of NF-kappaB, a protein linked to several cancers of the GI tract.

The study which is led by Professor John Baxter and Dr Gareth Jones will involve around 50 patients in a two-year pilot study.

Dr Jones says some patients who attended Morriston Hospital for observation, after being identified as being at high risk of developing cancer of the gullet, would be given curcumin supplements.

He says what they are hypothesising is, if curcumin is effective in blocking NF-kappaB, there may be a way of preventing people developing oesophageal cancer.

Dr Davies does however stress that even if the tablets prove successful in blocking the cancer promoting protein, there were many other factors at work.

But he hopes that in the foreseeable future, with more information, treatment for the prevention of GI tract cancers would be improved, as they are on the increase in the UK and the Western World.

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