Spice component versus cancer cells

Curcumin, the compound that gives the spice turmeric its yellow color, teams up with a naturally occurring immune system protein to kill prostate cancer cells, according to a new laboratory study.

When scientists exposed prostate tumor cells in test tubes to either curcumin or the immune protein—called tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)—the compound had little effect, says study coauthor Subhash C. Gautam of the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit.

But together, the substances killed 80 percent of the prostate cancer cells they encountered. They induced the cells to commit suicide, Gautam reported in San Francisco on April 9 at the 93rd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research.

Curcumin alone has shown promise against several other cancers. Turmeric is used extensively in cooking in India and other Asian countries. High turmeric intake could explain in part why the incidence of prostate cancer in Indian men is low compared with that of men in Western countries, Gautam speculates. He and his colleagues are planning to test the combination of curcumin and TRAIL against prostate cancer in mice.

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