I have received many messages from excited blog readers and MM list friends sending me links to different news reports on a recent study showing that curcumin kills esophageal cancer cells. Yep, I checked, the news that there is a new executioner in Cancer City is all over Internet.
Well, that should really come as no surprise to us, since for the past couple of years I have reported the same exact thing right here, based on what I have read over and over (and over!) in countless in vitro and in vivo scientific studies published in illustrious cancer journals. All of these studies show that curcumin kills different types of cancer cells…not just esophageal, but also myeloma, prostate (etc. etc. etc.) cells.
[The problem, of course, is how best to deliver an irresistible but lethal package of curcumin right to the doorstep of our cancer cells. As I have whined from time to time, if only we could inject this compound directly into the little buggers…! Well, this is an issue that I will discuss more in detail next week, when I publish my post on the above-mentioned esophageal study.]
I say, this should be a good lesson for researchers. I mean, just check out the title given to one of the key studies on curcumin and myeloma (=published in “Blood” in 2003): “Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) down-regulates the constitutive activation of nuclear factor-kB and IkBa kinase in human multiple myeloma cells, leading to suppression of proliferation and induction of apoptosis.” Helloo? Only scientists could possibly understand it. The rest of us are thinking: “Down-regulates the whaaat???”…“Induction of apotptotpoopywhaaat”?
Compare that mind-numbing (no offense intended!) title to these shorter, catchier ones: “Curry Powder Ingredient Kills Cancer Cells” or even to the title of the above-mentioned study: “Curcumin induces apoptosis-independent death in oesophageal cancer cells.” Yes, I think my point is clear…
Just for the fun (?) of it, let’s have a quick look at “apoptosis,” which means “programmed cell death.” This is actually a normal cellular process: cells are born, live for a while, do what they are supposed to do, then begin shrinking and eventually break up into fragments and die. There are a lot of videos online that show the process in a fun cartoon-like way, such as this one: http://tinyurl.com/cvtwjf (don’t miss the creepy sound effects!).
But the normal apoptotic process doesn’t apply to cancer cells. Cancer cells are able to mutate and protect themselves from death in various ways. First of all, they blatantly ignore the normal cellular signals telling them, “okay tough guys, party’s over, time to die now.” Cancer cells thumb their noses at these signals and continue to grow, proliferate and do their pesky deeds…in fact, in the case of myeloma, they even recruit the body’s own immune system cells (specifically, plasmacytoid dendritic cells) for protection (see my October 6 2009 post, or read this: http://tinyurl.com/ye6d5bu). They are sort of like that rather annoying Energizer bunny (il coniglietto Duracell in Italy), always on the go, go, go.
Conventional medicine uses harmful chemicals and radiation to stop the partying of cancer cells. But with most cancers, not just myeloma, that is not enough. Cancer cells eventually become resistant to these chemical attacks, with obvious consequences. And let’s not forget that our healthy cells are also affected in terrible ways by chemotherapy: some never recover.
Clearly, new strategies are needed. And, in my amateur opinion, these should, indeed must!!!, include non-toxic compounds that are able to: 1. protect our healthy cells from the toxic effects of chemotherapy and 2. increase the murderous anti-cancer effect of chemo drugs. There currently are a few clinical trials testing these chemo-compound combinations. It’s a start, but it’s hardly enough.
Well, this weekend is a busy one (in a good sense, eh!). I am switching off the computer. Have a good one, everybody!