A recently published cellular study on colorectal cancer showed that high-absorption BCM-95® Curcumin is able to reduce the spread of cancer cells and potentially increase the effectiveness of chemotherapy in the treatment of advanced colon cancer. [Buhrmann C, Kraehe P, Lueders C, Shayan P, Goel A, et al. (2014) Curcumin Suppresses Crosstalk between Colon Cancer Stem Cells and Stromal Fibroblasts in the Tumor Microenvironment: Potential Role of EMT. PLoS ONE 9(9): e107514. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107514]
Signaling (cellular communication) between cancer cells and normal cells is a key factor in how cancer progresses. This "signaling" increases the survival, proliferation, and malignant behavior of tumor cells and their ability to resist chemotherapy drugs. In this new study, researchers investigated the role of signaling between colon cancer cells and normal cells and how chemotherapy drugs and BCM-95 Curcumin affect that communication. Additionally, researchers examined the impact of the treatments on markers of cancer stem cells. Cancer stem cells are responsible for developing resistance to chemotherapy and the recurrence of cancer after treatment.
The study used a 3D tumor culture, which more closely replicates how tumors act in the body than other conventional in vitro cell culture models. The culture was treated with either 5‑Fluorouracil (5-FU), which is a common chemotherapeutic agent used for colorectal cancer, BCM-95 Curcumin, or a combination of 5-FU and BCM-95 Curcumin.
One startling finding of this study was that treatment with 5-FU actually promoted the growth of cancer stem cells, which may account for the high incidence of recurrence in colon cancer. "Colorectal cancer is especially devastating because of its high recurrence rate," said Ajay Goel, Ph.D., Director of Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention, Baylor Research Institute, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX, one of the study's authors. "Cancer stem cells exist in very small numbers in a tumor and can hide from chemotherapy. They're very small in number, but they survive and cause cancer to reoccur, sometimes years later. I believe cancer stem cells are the main reason why we can't stop cancer.
"But our recent studies on curcumin continue to reveal its unique potential as a therapeutic strategy in the fight against cancer," continued Dr. Goel. "In this study, treatment with curcumin impeded cancer growth and proliferation by inhibiting signaling proteins and blocking tumor cell promotion. The beauty of curcumin is its ability to balance gene expression and positively influence anticancer pathways."
The best results for inhibiting cancer growth occurred when the curcumin was used as a pretreatment before chemotherapy. The addition of curcumin reduced the amount of 5‑FU needed to inhibit cancer cell growth substantially and sensitized the cancer stem cells to chemotherapy treatment. "I'm particularly excited about curcumin's potential as a prophylactic to chemotherapy," said Dr. Goel. "We have great hope that using curcumin will extend survival and improve the quality of life of cancer patients."
It is important to note that the form of curcumin used in the study, BCM-95 Curcumin, has unique specifications, including high absorption and inclusion of turmeric essential oil, which is not found in standard curcumin. Therefore, results may not apply to other forms of curcumin.