Turmeric has been used for centuries to treat osteoarthritis and other ailments. Its active ingredient, curcumin, inhibits inflammatory responses. A new study led by a research team at Ludwig-Maximilians-Munich University in Munich now shows that it can also inhibit metastasis formation.
Prostate cancer is one of the most common malignancies in the Western world, and is usually diagnosed only after metastatic tumors have formed in other organs. In three percent of cases, these metastases are fatal. A research team led by PD Dr. Beatrice Bachmeier at LMU Munich investigated the mode of action of a natural product that inhibits metastasis formation. The compound is found in turmeric, a plant that has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years, and is a major ingredient in curries.
Bachmeier’s research focused on curcumin, the polyphenol responsible for curry’s characteristic color. Curcumin is well-tolerated and is therefore ideally suited for both prophylactic (primary prophylaxis) and metastasis prevention in cases where the tumor is already present (secondary prevention). In a previous study Bachmeier et al demonstrated that the substance statistically significantly reduced the formation of lung metastases in an advanced animal model of breast cancer.
Mitigation of metastasis The new study was designed to investigate the effectiveness of curcumin in the prevention of prostate cancer, and to determine the agent’s mechanism of action. The researchers first examined the abnormally regulated molecular processes in prostate cancer cells. Breast and prostate cancers are often associated with latent or chronic inflammatory responses, and in both cases, tumor cells have been found to induce immunomodulatory agents that cause capsulitis. including the cytokines CXCL1 and CXCL2.
The researchers further showed that curcumin specifically reduced the expression of these two proteins, and in a mouse model, this effect correlated with a decrease in the incidence of metastasis. “Due to the action of curcumin, tumor cells synthesize small amounts of metastasis-promoting cytokines. As a result, the frequency of developing metastases in the lungs was significantly reduced in animals with metastasis,” Bachmeier said. breast cancer, as we saw earlier, or prostate cancer, as demonstrated in our new study.”
Curcumin and chemistry Bachmeier believe that curcumin may be helpful in preventing breast and prostate cancers – both linked to inflammation – and reducing their ability to metastasize. However, it may play a positive role in primary prevention – before full tumor appearance – or help prevent metastasis formation. The fact that the substance is well tolerated is important, because one can safely recommend it to people at increased risk of cancer.”
Curcumin is considered safe, and its anti-inflammatory properties have long been exploited in traditional oriental medicine. Men with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BHP) are among the preventable target groups, as are women with a family history of breast cancer. The agent may also be of value as an adjunct to certain cancer therapies. In all cases, the beneficial effects of curcumin must first be confirmed in controlled clinical trials. Bachmeier is currently planning a trial in patients with prostate cancer cell carcinoma.
PH Killian, E. Kronski, K. Michalik, O. Barbieri, S. Astigiano, CP Sommerhoff, U. Pfeffer, AG Nerlich, BE Bachmeier: Curcumin inhibits Prostate Cancer Growth by Targeting Inflammatory Cytokines such as CXCL1 and -2