Curcumin as an Anti-Cancer Agent: Review of the Gap Between Basic and Clinical Applications
G. Bar-Sela, R. Epelbaum and M. Schaffer
Affiliation: Department of Oncology and Radiation Therapy, Rambam Health Care Campus, Haifa, Israel.
Curcumin, commonly called diferuloyl methane, is a hydrophobic polyphenol derived from rhizome (turmeric) of the herb Curcuma longa. Extensive research over the last half century has revealed important functions of curcumin. In vitro and in vivo research has shown various activities, such as anti-inflammatory, cytokines release, antioxidant, immunomodulatory, enhancing of the apoptotic process, and anti-angiogenic properties. Curcumin has also been shown to be a mediator of chemo-resistance and radio-resistance. The anti-cancer effect has been seen in a few clinical trials, mainly as a native chemoprevention agent in colon and pancreatic cancer, cervical neoplasia and Barrets metaplasia. Some clinical studies with healthy volunteers revealed a low bioavailability of curcumin, casting doubt on the use of curcumin only as food additive. Our clinical experience with curcumin, along with the anti-metabolite gemcitabine in the treatment of patients with advanced pancreatic carcinoma, produced an objective response in less than 10% of patients, with a minor effect on survival. However, the safety of this combination was proved. Curcumins potent anti-proliferative activity interacting with several intracellular signal transduction pathways may potentiate the anti-tumor effect of gemcitabine. The preclinical data lead to various, but still scarce, clinical studies (some on-going) that demonstrated the possible efficacy of this treatment as a chemopreventive or chemotherapeutic agent. This review will focus on the clinical evidence, including our experience with curcumin as a chemopreventive and therapeutic agent and the in vitro background results.
Keywords: Curcumin, anti-tumor activity, chemopreventive
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