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Could turmeric help treat mesothelioma?

Those who have been diagnosed with mesothelioma may feel like there are limited treatment options available to them. Current treatments for this aggressive form of cancer can include surgery, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, and immunotherapy, among others. However, some of these options may not be practical based on someone's overall health, the stage of cancer and the location of the tumors.

However, researchers continue to pursue more effective therapies. Some of this research has focused on one of the active components of a commonly used spice that has shown promising anticancer test results.

A component of turmeric root may help treat cancer

Phytochemicals are the biologically active compounds found in plants that contribute to the plant's color, taste or smell. Plants use these compounds to keep away pests, keep away sunlight and control growth. One particular phytochemical has shown promising anti-cancer properties during testing.

Curcumin is one of the active components of turmeric, a perennial herbaceous plant in the same family as ginger. Curcumin is found in the plant's root and helps give it its characteristic yellow-orange pigment.

This compound has been used for centuries in Asia as a medicinal treatment for a variety of ailments. It is especially popular in Ayurveda, a system of traditional Indian medicine. However, no scientific study was published on curcumin's therapeutic properties until 1937, and the first observations of the compound's anti-cancer effects did not occur until 1985.

Early studies showed that curcumin might be able to reduce inflammation, which is a factor for cancer development. Early studies also revealed that curcumin might be able to inhibit tumor growth, target multiple cancer cell lines in malignant tumors, contrast multidrug resistance of cancer cells and complement the effects of other cancer-treating drugs.

A recent review highlights curcumin's effects on mesothelioma

Although there have been several studies on the possible cancer-fighting properties of curcumin, few studies have focused on the compound's potential in preventing or treating mesothelioma. A recently published international review closely examines the studies that have focused on just that.

Some key findings of the review include that:

  • By inducing tumor cell death and protecting against inflammation, curcumin can suppress the growth of malignant mesothelioma cells in a dose-dependent and time-dependent way
  • Curcumin can inhibit the forming of new blood vessels in tumor tissue
  • Curcumin reduced the risk of mice developing malignant mesothelioma tumors when researchers administered it through the peritoneum
  • Intracavitary administration of curcumin was used to significantly reduce sarcomatoid malignant mesothelioma tumor mass in rats

Effectively applying curcumin may be difficult

Curcumin may have significant potential as a cancer treatment. However, it does have some limitations that complicate its use as an effective cancer treatment.

For example, it has poor water solubility, degrades when exposed to light, is chemically unstable and is quickly metabolized. It is also hard for the body to make use of the compound when someone consumes it orally, and the compound has a high potential to interfere with other medications someone may be taking.

Researchers must overcome these traits before curcumin can effectively treat mesothelioma in humans. However, the encouraging results of ongoing curcumin research may suggest that researchers are on the right path and may hint at the types of new treatments that could become available in the future.

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