Curcumin awakens sleeping genes and reignites tumor suppression activity…

A few days ago, I got very excited about the announcement of a newly released study: “Research at Baylor University shows curcumin awakens sleeping genes and reignites tumor suppression activity.” Holy crackers! Here is the link:

I was particularly struck by one of the things said by Dr. Ajay Goel, the study’s main author: our genes are very much affected by dietary and environmental factors, which is good news. That means that you can influence 95% of all cancers with environment and lifestyle changes. Uhm, come again? Ninety-five percent??????? Stunning! Now, why don’t our doctors tell us stuff like that?

I tried to get my hands on the full study but could only find the abstract (= not available for free online, sorry…), from which I take this excerpt: “Our data reveal novel evidence for curcumin-mediated changes in DNA methylation in the colon.” Now, this abstract is incredibly technical, and I confess understood very little, but the changes brought on by curcumin were clearly positive ones…There was a mention of the potent chemopreventive effect of curcumin, in fact.   

Methylation…methylation…DNA methylation…what the daisybonkers does that mean? Forget the “explanations” that I found online…too confusing and complicated. Let’s just say that methylation is an essential process for normal development AND is also linked to important cancerous events. It silences genes. Hmmm. Silence of the genes…

I’m focusing on epigenetics for a few moments, even though it’s really slippery territory for a greenhorn like me!, because of a very interesting new study discussed in this Science Daily article: As I understand it, in normal cells methylation is a well-regulated process, whereas in cancer cells it is totally chaotic. And it is thanks to this chaos that a tumor is able to turn genes off and on, depending on its needs. Methylation, in other words, helps tumors adapt to their environment, which is really baaaaad, of course.

This new study, however, suggests that cancer cells can be “re-educated,” which conjures up hilarious mental images, I must say…images of scowling, sullen cancer cells sitting at their desks in front of a computer screen that displays the following message: “you WILL behave, you WILL behave”…Okay, Margaret, stop it. 🙂 Point is, epigenetic research might make cancer treatments more tolerable and successful…AND turn cancer cells back into normal cells (wow). Sounds like science fiction to me right now…but who knows?

Let’s now get back to those sleeping genes and the Baylor University study (first part of this post). The amazing thing is that curcumin apparently has the ability to reawaken the sleeping beauties, and, after making them swallow a few cups of strong coffee (oh okay, so I’m a bit giddy today 😉 ), enable them to whip the…I mean, annihilate those nasty evil cancer cells…By the way, the cells tested in the study were colon cancer cells, but Dr. Goel thinks that other types of cancer cells would have the same results…

Now, before ending, I should mention a couple of things. The announcement of this study was given in a press release from a company called Europharma that distributes BCM-95, a type of curcumin that my friend Sherlock and I tested a few years ago with very poor results (but that doesn’t mean it won’t work for others…just that it didn’t work for us). And Dr. Goel is on Europharma’s Scientific Advisory Board.

That said, I have no reason to doubt the data is true. None. We already know, e.g., that curcumin works on a molecular level (remember my posts on the Polycomb genes? Exactly…)…Just have a look at this abstract: And there are more.

In conclusion, I wonder if the epigenetic capacity of curcumin is the reason for my ongoing stability, in spite of the fact that I’m in the high-risk-for-progression category of smolderers. Hmmm…

Only time will tell…

P.S. By the way, those interested in the sea cucumber/SMM trial should read the comment that Arlene K left on yesterday’s post. It’s a small world, eh! Thanks, Arlene, keep up the GOOD work and please keep us informed! 🙂


  1. DNA methylation is a way to “open up” or “compact” the DNA in the nucleus. Our DNA is VERY tightly packed into every nucleus, and at it’s best packing it’s inaccessible to the proteins so that genes can’t be transcribed (aka turned on). One of the ways to regulated how tightly packed the DNA is is to tack on a methyl group (actually a lot of methyl groups). And yes, normal cells have a normal pattern to this sort of thing, so that, in the right environment the right genes are on and the bad genes are inaccessible. Cancer cells make their environment different, sense the environment differently, and thus react with a whole different pattern of DNA methylation and gene expression.

    It would be interesting to know how curcumin affects the “normal” cells surrounding cancer cells – those cells are often no longer normal, but cancer-promoting (tricked by living so close to cancer for long enough). I’m a firm believer (with the education to back it up) that myeloma and many solid tumors survive and thrive due to the neighborhood they’ve created. Cancer is the drug dealer in the run-down neighborhood. Based on what we know of the pathways affected by curcumin, I’d bet that part of its effects can be attributed to “urban renewal” of the cancer micro-environment.

    As for the author’s associations, ultimately the data is peer reviewed. I think it’s better to get all reports out there to be reviewed rather than suppressing information because it doesn’t jive with dogma or won’t reap a windfall for Big Pharma. And as for MD’s not talking enough about diet and epigenetics, look no further than Big Pharma and the drug reps who educate MD’s. There are no highly-paid sales reps going around convincing doctors that inexpensive diet choices will keep patients out of their offices and hospitals. There’s a system built around treating poor lifestyle choices, after all.

  2. Hi Margaret

    I Have been doing a tentative jig of joy all afternoon, and would like to share further results with everyone. Two weeks ago I had my levels checked after receiving my first cycle of once a week Velcade and Dex. The levels had dropped from IgA 29 to IgA 5.14 The IgG had stayed the same at 5.8 and the IgM had gone down a bit further to less than ).11. Now I was very pleased with this, but told not to get too exicted as sometimes when the treatment is stopped the levels go back up when the go down fast. My levels were retested last week after a week off treatment and I have just had the results, IgA DOWN to 4.14 IgG up to 7 and IgM up to < 0.16. Now I know that just a week off treatment isn't going to tell the whole story, but the fact that my levels improved is certainly going in the right direction and in fact the levels have NEVER Never been this good, since I was diagnosed and treated for 3 months with thalidomide in 2004. Although I am very tired and my neutriphils are down this week to 1, which isn't so good, but likely to be the Velcade, I will just have to be careful. But exstatic.

    Now I have that off my chest. Reference your study,I think that it's the same basis, of molecular switches and genetic switches that Dr. Burzynski's treatment works on. Having started to look into my own genetic profile, I have to say, you are right, it's is a bit confusing and some studies are a bit over my head, Rob you say you have the education to back you up, could we talk a bit, I am very interested at this level of things and have already found out a few very interesting things, which I would love to discuss with someone, who could help me understand it a bit more.

    Thank you for letting me share the=rough your blog Margaret


  3. Sue, I’d be happy to share with you. Please bear in mind that my education is a PhD in molecular cell biology, not an MD, and I have no clinical experience. My sister died last month from complications after battling aggressive myeloma for just 2 years, so I have indirect experience with myeloma, but I’ve never been good with reading all the numbers you get from a checkup. I studied molecular pathways in normal and cancer cells, and I can point to studies that clearly indicate that the cancer “neighborhood” is just as important as the nasty mutated cancer cells in continuing the disease. Myeloma treatments largely ignore this and I believe part of it is due to the lack of research and part of it is stubborn MD dogma. I’d like to change that but am not currently in a lab to do the experiments needed. All that said, I’m happy to provide my hypotheses and let people bring them to other researchers for their opinions. Having lost someone to myeloma, I will not tolerate the politics that prevents useful information from getting out there to save lives.

    Margaret, could you please provide my email address to Sue so that she can contact me?

  4. I am looking for some clarification here. I believe that large doses of methyl b12 taken for a deficiency may have caused an increase in my mspike. I had seen studies that implicated b12 especially methyl in prostate cancer as far as accelerating it. I am wondering if this same thing could happen to myeloma cells.

    Once this happens can this be reversed again by stopping the overmethylation. If so does curcumin act in this regard or is some other compound needed?
    Thanks in advance

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