Cancer cell resistance to chemotherapy is a major cause of death in patients with colorectal cancer. In a first-of-its-kind study, BCM-95® Curcumin was found to improve chemotherapy's effectiveness in killing chemoresistant cells via a mechanism not previously identified. [Toden S, Okugawa Y, Jascur T, Wodarz D, Komarova N, Buhrmann C, Shakibaei M, Boland R, and Goel A. Curcumin mediates chemosensitization to 5-flurouracil through miRNA-induced suppression of epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition in chemoresistant colorectal cancer. Carcinogenesis. 2015; 1-13. Doi:10.1093/carcin/bvg006]
"Chemoresistance occurs when the cancer cell is no longer responding to the cancer-killing effects of chemotherapy. The cancer cell 'learns' how to survive the chemo. It is a huge problem," states Ajay Goel, Ph.D., Director of Center for Gastrointestinal Research, and Director of Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention and Genomics, Baylor Research Institute, Baylor University Medical Center, Dallas, TX, lead author of the study.
"In this study, we showed that by adding a high-absorption curcumin (BCM-95 Curcumin) to the chemotherapy treatment (5-flurouracil or 5- FU), the cells lost their chemoresistance and the 5-FU was once again effective. Cell studies have shown that curcumin boosts the effectiveness of chemotherapy, but in this study, we demonstrated this ability using a mouse model, which adds further evidence to curcumin's effectiveness. We were also for the first time able to identify a unique mechanism of action, which is via curcumin's influence on micro-RNA or miRNA."
MiRNAs are small molecules in the body that greatly influence patterns of gene expression. By targeting miRNAs, systems of many genes are controlled or modulated, which can play a crucial role in killing cancer cells, and preventing its recurrence and spread.
"The miRNA target is extremely interesting," Dr. Goel continues, "this mechanism can control the expression of several hundreds of genes simultaneously. These small genes or miRNAs are like control centers for specific cellular processes. In the past, we have tried to treat cancer by focusing on single genes, but it is never as simple as that because cancer is a chronic illness that is not controlled by one, but several genes. This is fascinating, because by influencing specific miRNAs, one can influence a wide array of genes that impact cancer instead of just one. The miRNAs that were affected by curcumin treatment in our study control a process called epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT), a process by which cancer cells metastasize. The BCM-95 Curcumin used in the study influenced the expression of miRNA to prevent EMT, which may have a profound impact in our fight against cancer."
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. Therefore, results may not apply to other forms of curcumin.