Curcumin & black raspberry and neem leaf extracts…A new study on the amazing things that non-toxic compounds can do…

Today I’d like to discuss a very interesting study concerning the effect of curcumin, black raspberry extract and neem leaf extract on pancreatic cancer cells and radioresistance (see:, even though I’m in a bit of a hurry because my parents are arriving tomorrow from the States…so I’m a bit distracted and frazzled, as you’ll notice from my lack of editing…and numerous repetitions, I’m sure! Sorry about that! :). 

Before I begin, though, I wanted to spend a few words on the issue of “radioresistance.” The following is based, of course, on what I’ve read here and there. One of the unfortunate side effects of radiotherapy, or radiation therapy, which is commonly used in many types of cancer treatment, is that it stimulates the already super hyper NF-kappaB signalling pathway. Why is this unfortunate? Well, in a nut shell, it means that cancer cells are able to avoid being blasted to smithereens.

When it becomes super stimulated, in fact, NF-kappaB (by the way, I’ve written a lot about how this blasted pathway works in myeloma…just search my blog for more info) actually turns on pro-survival molecules that protect cancer cells from treatment-caused death. This is, understandably, a huge problem with radiation treatments and, come to think of it, also with chemotherapy…Why? Because when cancer cells escape death, they become stronger and resistant to future treatments. And yes, this happens in myeloma, too. Eh.

But let’s say you can administer something that’s able to inhibit this additional stimulation of an already-hopping-and-bopping NF-kappaB, thus effectively annihilating the various survival mechanisms used by cancer cells. Let’s say that you can actually ENHANCE the killing effect of the killer rays. Yes. 🙂

And this takes us straight back to our curcumin-neem-raspberry study. In this study, pancreatic cancer cells were exposed to radiation, which, as expected, gave a real boost to the already frenzied NF-kappaB activity, with the consequences we have just discussed. However, this extra NF-kB stimulation was compleeeeeeeeetely blocked by our lovely three compounds…curcumin, black raspberry extract and neem leaf extract (CUR, BRE and NLE from now on). Excellent.

Blocked NF-kB —> death for pancreatic cancer cells.

The full study tells us that in the past decade radiotherapy has commonly been used to control the progression of pancreatic cancer, one of the deadliest cancers around (let me take a moment to remember my dear, smart, funny blogging friend Lucie who died almost a year ago…). The problem is that pancreatic cancer cells frequently become resistant to treatment…they become stronger and more aggressive. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Eh.

As mentioned above, one of the identified culprits in radioresistance is our old nemesis NF-kappaB, which is overly active in myeloma cells, too. (Note: NF-kB’s hyperactivity is confined to cancer cells, not healthy cells or tissues.) Anyway, as we’ve just seen, this signalling pathway simply lovvvvves radiation (“gimme more, gimme more”!)…and that is very verrrry bad, since it sets in motion a series of mechanisms that protect cancer cells from being zapped into oblivion…As we have seen.

So the point of this study was to find a way to inhibit this extremely wicked pathway safely, without interfering with the killing effect of the rays AND without harming or even killing the patient, either…

Well, CUR, RSE and NLE do exactly that. They significantly inhibit NF-kB that has been turned on big-time by radiation. Safely! Yes, because CUR, RSE and NLE are safe bioactive dietary constituents that can target multiple pathways without causing any undesirable toxicity.

But there is more…

These compounds also potentiate radiosensitization through selective regulation of NF-kB. Aha! So they make radiotherapy work BETTER. How about that? (Well, ok, this didn’t come as a surprise to me…I’ve read and posted about curcumin and radiation before…see:

This, by the way, is something we should keep in mind when we are about to have our full skeletal survey, don’t you think?

Skipping past the technical details describing materials and methods and whatnot…we get to the results and the discussion parts. Well, and again, sorry for the repetitions…yes, our three non-toxic extracts were able to block NF-kB while enhancing the effect of the radiotherapy treatment at the same time…thus effectively killing two birds with one stone (=what a terrrrrrible saying!, but I can’t think of a less violent one…).

IMPORTANT NOTE. Even when tested by themselves, as individual substances, these three compounds completely blocked the frenzied high jinks of NF-kB. COMPLETELY. Yay! Excellent!

Incidentally, these authors have already studied how two of these compounds behave in the presence of radiation: CUR and neuroblastoma cells (2008), and BRE and breast cancer cells (2010). This new study therefore confirms their previous findings, that is, that CUR and BRE (and NLE, = the new entry) might be of immense help to patients undergoing this sort of procedure…By the way, the authors are carrying out more in-depth and IN VIVO research in their lab right now. Fingers crossed…

Okay, enough. The picture is clear. And now…for my final comments…

Until someone comes up with a completely non-toxic conventional cancer treatment, I’m 1000% in favour of what is called integrative oncology. I mean, it’s a total OUTRAGE…it’s SHOCKING BEYOND WORDS that we have so many inexpensive non-toxic natural extracts at our fingertips, extracts that could protect our healthy cells while enhancing the toxic killing effects of conventional treatments. Yet these extracts are ignored…in spite of the accumulating evidence…  

Yes, I know about big pharma. I know why this isn’t happening. Believe me, I know. First-hand, too. I may not have mentioned this before on my blog, but about a decade ago I taught English to managers in two big pharma companies (both, well-known on an international level) here in Florence. Quelle coincidence, eh? Well, it just so happened that one of these managers, who really liked me, told me a lot…He shouldn’t have, but he did. What I learned makes me sick now, and I wish I could forget everything…or rather, no, I wish I’d asked more questions and taken notes…but back then I was still very naive…meaning, I hadn’t been diagnosed yet with cancer. At any rate, my big pharma “experience” makes me almost 100% certain that things will never change. And they certainly won’t change as long as we, the patients, sit back and do nothing…

Our role is so incredibly CRUCIAL…

What can we do? We can push and shove and get our specialists to DO SOMETHING…We can encourage them to think–and, indeed, ACT!–outside their little boxes. And we can do this by doing, and informing them of, our own research (scientifically-backed only, of course)…and by being as well informed as we can possibly be. We need to ask questions.

Another key thing: we need to learn how to read and interpret our own test results…and realize that one single bad result doesn’t necessarily mean the end of the world…

May this post be yet another wake-up call…for all of us…myself included, of course…


  1. Margaret, do you have a recommendation of where we can get supplements containing black raspberry extract and neem extract? I take curcumin capsules (the ones you recommended!)regularly and am a big berry eater already, but I don’t think black raspberries are particularly easy to come by here in Germany!


  2. While bone marrow stem cells have been shown to play an important role in tissue repair,
    the role of stem cells in tumor formation has also been intensely investigated. Some
    scientists have suggested that bone marrow-derived stem cells (BMDSCs) might be
    involved in the process of tumor formation. The link between chronic inflammation and
    cancer has long been recognized, as cancer has been called a “wound that never heals,”
    and a wound is known to attract stem cells.
    It has been proposed that BMDSCs could become tumor cells or enhance the
    development of existing tumors by contributing to the formation of blood vessels in the
    tumor. If circulating stem cells were to contribute to tumor vasculature and tumor
    growth, then increasing the number of circulating stem cells should accelerate tumor
    StemEnhance® is a novel mobilizer of bone marrow stem cells that was shown to
    increase the number of circulating stem cells by 25%. Therefore, we investigated the
    effect of daily consumption of StemEnhance® on the growth of human breast tumor
    implanted in a mouse model.
    In brief, fluorescent human MDA-MB-435 cancer cells were grown into tumors, which
    were later transplanted by surgical implantation into the mammary fat pad of forty female
    Increase in the number of circulating stem cells by StemEnhance®
    does not promote tumor growth
    mice. Twenty-one days after implantation, mice were randomly separated in two groups.
    For a duration of six weeks, experimental animals were fed with 300 mg/kg of
    StemEnhance while controls were fed placebo. Tumor growth was monitored using live
    whole body fluorescence imaging. At the end of the study, tumors were excised and
    There was no evidence of toxicity due to StemEnhance. Animals in both groups showed
    identical body-weight growth patterns and no visual or behavioral differences could be
    seen between the two groups.
    At the start of the feeding
    trial, tumor areas for both
    control and experimental
    group were statistically
    identical. Changes in
    tumor area, and rates of
    increase from weeks 1 to
    6, were determined using
    repeated measures
    analysis of variance.
    Tumor growth was
    approximately linear, as determined by orthogonal polynomial regression. Tumor growth
    rate was slower in the StemEnhance group (P=0.014) when compared to the control
    group. The reduction in tumor growth was significant by week 2 and at week 6 tumor
    areas were 40% larger in the control group (1.70 cm2) than in the StemEnhance group
    (1.25 cm2) (P<0.01). Metastasis was not seen in either group. At the end of the study,
    tumors were carefully excised and weighed. Mean tumor weight in the StemEnhancetreated-
    group (0.44 ± 0.21) was 35% smaller than in the control (0.68 ± 0.42) (P 0.3
    P<0.04 P<0.004
    These results for tumor mass are consistent with the analyses of tumor area.
    Animals received 300 mg/kg of StemEnhance , which is roughly 10 times the daily intake
    normally recommended for humans. Even at that high level, growth was normal and
    animals showed no signs of toxicity. Daily consumption of the stem cell mobilizer
    StemEnhance reduced the rate of human breast cancer growth without affecting growth
    pattern. No metastases were seen, at least in the conditions of this study.
    Little data exist to suggest how circulating stem cells could contribute to reducing tumor
    growth. It is possible that after migrating in a tumor, attracted by cytokines, and after
    proliferating and differentiating in cells of the target tissue, stem cells could secrete
    cytokines inhibiting cellular division.
    Other compounds in StemEnhance could have contributed to the effect observed in this
    study, such as phycocyanin and specific polysaccharides. Nevertheless, based on these
    results, increasing the number of circulating bone marrow stem cells does not promote
    the growth of breast cancer.

  3. Margaret, I agree 100% about the need for patients to push and push hard. However, that means we also need to arm ourselves with a good understanding of what studies tell us. It’s the easiest thing in the world for a doctor to dismiss what we say as being uninformed or not applicable.

    For example, there are lots of great in vitro results, but we need to understand the limitations of in vitro research if we’re going to use them effectively. Taking in vitro results as gospel to a clinician is likely to get you dismissed as lacking in understanding.

    We all need to educate ourselves so that we can better argue the case and finally get things moving.


  4. Will this work for someone on chemo? What if the pancreatic cancer is also now in the liver?

    Where can I get these 3 things and how much should a person take?

    I appreciate any information you can possibly share.

  5. Would like to find out where I can perchase, Black Raspberry leaf extract! And can I perchase it in Canada! I was told it helps with night sweats! Is this true!!

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