Cucumbers and…multiple myeloma?

You know the bitter taste that you get in your mouth sometimes after biting into a slice of cucumber? Well, years ago my mother showed me how to get rid of that rather bothersome taste, but I won’t be using her method anymore…nope, not after reading what I read earlier today.

The above-mentioned bitterness is caused by a…bitter group of chemicals called cucurbitacins. The more cucurbitacins contained in your cucumber (or any member of the Cucurbitaceae family…melons, pumpkins, squash etc.), the bitterer the taste. The bitterness gives us a sort of warning not to eat the cucumber. But if we are hungry or stubborn enough to ignore the warning, we could develop stomach cramps or worse: back in the 1980s, there were more than 200 cases of zucchini poisoning (!) in Australia, Alabama and California. So: beware of bitter…it could be toxic!

You are probably asking yourselves why I am so interested in this cucurucu-stuff today. Well, it turns out that the cytotoxic properties of all the cucumber family members could be put to good use. This morning a blog reader (thank you!) sent me the link to a study that mentions the fact that cucurbitacins are STAT3 inhibitors, see: She also sent me the full study where I found this titbit: Another class of STAT3 inhibitors includes natural products and their derivatives with anti-tumour activities, such as cucurbitacin, resveratrol, galiellalactone, curcumin and indirubin. The molecular mechanisms of action of these natural product inhibitors, which probably inhibit other oncogenic signalling pathways in addition to STAT3, remain to be fully determined.

Since STAT3 is an important signaling pathway in multiple myeloma, I did a quick search of PubMed for studies on cucurbitacins and myeloma. Bingo! I found the abstract of a paper presented at the 2007 ASH annual meeting, see The title says it all: Cucurbitacin I (JSI-124) Has Potent Anti-Myeloma Effects Independent of Its Inhibition of JAK2-Induced STAT3 Activation. I don’t have the full study yet, but there is enough in the abstract to hold our attention: several multiple myeloma cell lines were ultimately trampled to death by JSI-124, or Cucurbitacin I.

This plant extract is identified as a powerful direct inhibitor of myeloma cells blocking constitutive and IL-6/BMSC-dependent STAT3 activation in addition to STAT3 independent signaling pathways. This is clearly excellent news. And there is more: this substance targets both the malignant myeloma cell AND its bone marrow microenvironment, which, as we know by now, is crucial for the cell’s development, growth and survival. A double whammy for our myeloma cells…

Well, this has certainly given me a new appreciation for…cucumbers!


  1. Happy Thanksgiving, Margaret. I have made a gluten-free menu for our family today:

    non-alcoholic Sangria (using non-alcoholic red wine and rum extract)
    Roast turkey Breast
    Mashed potatoes with gluten-free turkey gravy
    Tomato aspic with onion, celery and sliced pimento olives
    Green beans (cooked with bacon and onion) almondine
    A pilaf of quinoa, celery, onion, dried cranberries, cooked in chicken broth and a little orange juice, with chopped pecans, chopped parsley, and orange zest added just before serving (recipe on
    Whole Cranberry sauce

    And for dessert, grandma’s recipe of pumpkin pie baked in a cookie crumb crust made with Pamela’s gluten-free pecan shortbread cookies, and served with mounds of sweetened whipped cream.

    Don’t you wish you were back in the States for just this one day?

    The diet resumes tomorrow.

  2. Hello Margaret,
    I wish you good health .
    I came across your blog recently and tried to read as much as I can . I ‘m most interested in the curcumin use and benefits for MM.
    How do you take it curcumin ? it can have heartburn effect for some people when taken with tomatoe juice ( first mixed with olive oil and black pepper) . It was recommended to be used in cooking .
    many thanks .

  3. I meant cucumbers on my previous question.
    Curcumin is such an icon on the mm jargon that I meant to say cucumber and ended up typing curcumin.

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