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Curry could help stave off cancer

Tuesday, 9th January 2007, 14:24

Category: Healthy Living


A curry a day could stave off cancer, according to new research.

Scientists found the chemical that gives spicy food its kick stops tumours growing or spreading to other parts of the body.

Lab tests showed the compound capsaicin that gives chilli peppers their piquancy kills off lung and pancreatic cancer cells.

Researchers described their finding as "incredibly exciting" and said they hoped patients would be able to benefit from the discovery with the development of side effect free anti cancer drugs containing the ingredient.

They believe it could help explain the secret of the Asian community's ability to resist cancer.

Study leader Dr Timothy Bates, of the University of Nottingham, said he believed his team had discovered the "Achille's Heel" of the disease.

He said: "There is a difference in incidence of cancer in places such as India and Mexico where they have a diet rich in spices and this provides a proper biochemical reason for it.

"We have found that capsaicin goes right to the centre of the tumour cell by attacking its mitochondria which is its 'powerhouse' or energy source. And because it is a natural chemical it does not harm any of the surrounding healthy cells.

"A lot of the big drugs companies' pipelines are empty at the moment but this opens up the possibility of a new generation of anti cancer treatments in the near future."

The study, published online in the journal Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications, means people could prevent cancer by eating a diet rich in capsaicin and that existing drugs to treat conditions such as psoriasis and muscle strain which already contain the chemical could be adapted to tackle the disease.

Dr Bates said: "This is incredibly exciting and may explain why people living in countries like Mexico and India, who traditionally eat a diet which is very spicy, tend to have lower incidences of many cancers that are prevalent in the western world."

The chemical, which belongs to a family of compounds called vanilloids, produced startling results when it was tested in the laboratory on human lung cancer cells. Lung cancer cells have been approved by the National Cancer Institute as the "gold standard" for testing new anti cancer drugs.

Dr Bates' team also tested similar compounds on pancreatic cancer, producing similar cell death to that observed with the lung cancer cells - which is highly significant as pancreatic cancer is one of the hardest cancers to treat and has a five year survival rate of less than one per cent.

Dr Bates said: "As these compounds attack the very heart of the tumour cells, we believe we have in effect discovered a fundamental 'Achilles heel' for all cancers.

"The investigation and development of anti mitochondrial drugs for cancer chemotherapy by our group is unique in the UK and is likely to be extremely significant in man's fight against cancer both here and internationally.”

By its very nature capsaicin, and other vanilloids found in the human diet, are safe because we already eat them in many common foods. And some have already been passed for use in treatments for other medical conditions, reducing the number of hurdles needed to get them approved for use in cancer patients.

Added Dr Bates: "To develop a new drug costs pharmaceutical companies in the region of £4OO million and takes up to ten years. To develop a drug for a secondary medical purpose costs far less, so compounds such as capsaicin and the others we have identified could mean big business.

"Capsaicin, for example, is already found in treatments for muscle strain and psoriasis — which raises the question of whether an adapted topical treatment could be used to treat certain types of skin cancer.

"We have already identified a number of compounds that are currently used in man for other diseases that have secondary anti-cancer actions.

"We are currently seeking industrial partners to enable these agents to be used in clinical trials with colleagues from Nottingham and other centres in the UK to treat a variety of cancers both in adults and, in particular, in children's cancers, where their younger cells are already 'primed' to die by apoptosis (natural cell death) making them more susceptible to these agents.

"It is also possible cancer patients or those at risk of developing cancer could be advised to eat a diet which is richer in spicy foods to help treat or prevent the disease."

Copyright © 2006 National News +44(0)207 684 3000


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Lung cancer incidence is actually lower in the U.S. and western Europe than in countries with cuisines that use hot peppers, such as eastern Asia and Central America. Because rates of smoking differ in regions, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to determine the effects of diet by looking at cancer rates alone. This holds true for other types of cancer. Perhaps the author was over-simplifying for the sake of the media, but his examples are simply not true, which makes me skeptical.

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  • 1 month later...

I picked up some curcumin for my husband to try to help the joint inflammation. He took it for 5 days and thought he noticed some reduction in pain (possible placebo effect.) He went on higher oxycontin yesterday so I really can't say if his pain relief is helped by the curcumin but I took it & am able to notice a difference in my chronic back pain so I'm going to keep us both on it. Cleared it with onc, she says OK to take it


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...but I took it & am able to notice a difference in my chronic back pain so I'm going to keep us both on it. Cleared it with onc, she says OK to take it


Curcumin has been found to be as effective as most of the prescription COX2 inhibitors, albiet without the nasty side effects. Interestingly enough, COX2 is involved with the spread of most cancers. If you are able to shut down production of the COX2 enzyme then you are able to prevent the cascade of events that follow (e.g. upregulation of prostiglandin E2 (PGE2), etc.). I have my wife on 2700 mg/day and will keep her on it until her cancer is nothing but a bad dream :wink:

Anyway, just thought I'd throw in my 2 cents worth...


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