Compounds found in curry are being investigated as a way of improving drug response in patients with advanced bowel cancer in a new study.
Scientists at the Cancer Research UK and National Institute for Health Research Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre (ECMC) in Leicester will investigate whether tablets containing curcumin – found in the spice turmeric – can be safely added to the standard treatment for bowel cancer that has spread.
Earlier studies have shown that curcumin can enhance the ability of chemotherapy to kill bowel cancer cells in the lab. The trial is being funded by Hope Against Cancer, The Royal College of Surgeons and the Bowel Disease Research Foundation.
Patients with advanced bowel cancer are usually given a treatment called Folfox, which combines three chemotherapy drugs. But around 40-60% of patients don’t respond and, of those who do, side effects such as severe tingling or nerve pain can limit the number of cycles patients can have.
Chief investigator, Professor William Steward, ECMC director at the University of Leicester, said: “The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side effects and can keep having treatment for longer.
“This research is at a very early stage, but investigating the potential of plant chemicals to treat cancer is an intriguing area that we hope could provide clues to developing new drugs in the future.”
Dr Joanna Reynolds, Cancer Research UK’s director of centres, said: “The Experimental Cancer Medicine Centres Network supports research into some of the most novel and exciting new anti-cancer therapies, often providing the first insights into their effect on cancer patients.”
Source: University of Leicester