Turmeric back in the fight against cancer

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Scientists have known for some time that turmeric, a key flavour in Indian curry, has anti-cancer properties.

But now they have improved and refined the yellowish component in turmeric and created two synthetic versions of it.

Curcumin, the yellow component in turmeric that gives curry its flavour, is thought to have the ability to suppress tumours and people who eat a lot of curry may be less prone to the disease.

However curcumin loses its anti-cancer attributes quickly when ingested.

Researchers at Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, were able to identify and synthesize two molecular analogues in curcumin - GO-Y030 and GO-Y031 - which are up to 30 times as potent as natural curcumin.

Lead researcher Hiroyuki Shibata says curcumin is known to suppress genes that promote cell growth as well as kill cancerous cells but the 'low bioavailability' in natural curcumin quickly loses its anti-cancer properties when it is ingested.

In order to enhance the therapeutic potential of curcumin, Shibata and his colleagues synthesized and tested 90 variations of the molecule's structure and found two which proved to be more potent and bioavailable than natural curcumin.

The researchers found that mice with colorectal cancer fed on these two molecular analogues fared up to 51 percent better than did mice in a control group.

Like curcumin, the two synthetic versions may be able to fight other cancers, such as gastric cancer and cancer of the breast, pancreas and lung.

Shibata says the results could also apply to other forms of cancer, such as gastric cancer.

The researchers published structural data for the two molecules GO-Y030 and GO-Y031 in 2006 in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics, and they continue to study the mechanisms behind the molecules' apparent potencies.

Findings of this latest study were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research Centennial Conference on Translational Cancer Medicine on Sunday.

The research appears in the latest issue of Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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