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Curry Spice May Inhibit Tumor Growth


NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A compound found in the curry spice turmeric may suppress production of a protein that spurs tumor growth in the body, researchers report.

According to their study, curcumin inhibited the production of interleukin-8 (IL-8), a protein that attracts white blood cells to a particular site and leads to inflammation. The compound also reduced the activity of nuclear factor kappa-B (NF-kappaB), a molecule that helps regulate the gene that produces IL-8.

While tumor cells are known to secrete high levels of inflammation-promoting proteins like IL-8, the exact role of these proteins in cancer is unclear. Previous research suggests that the compounds may spur the proliferation of tumor cells and suppress the immune system.

Regardless of the mechanism, controlling levels of these compounds "may have an important role in therapy for patients with malignant disease," Dr. Hideki Hidaka from Kumamoto University in Kumamoto, Japan and colleagues conclude.

The researchers mixed human pancreatic cancer cells with different amounts of curcumin, which is the substance that gives turmeric its yellow color. The production of IL-8 and the activity of NF-kappaB fell with increasing doses of curcumin.

If the spice component does indeed reduce IL-8 activities as the findings suggest, "curcumin is capable of working as a potent agent that reduces tumor promotion," the researchers conclude.

The study, in a recent issue of the journal Cancer, is not the first to link curcumin, a compound thought to be a potent anti-inflammatory agent, with certain health benefits. Studies also suggest that the compound might help heal wounds and fight Alzheimer's disease and multiple sclerosis.

SOURCE: Cancer 2002;95:1206-1214.


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