The Australian MGUS and SMM-curcumin trial data just got published…(Part 2)

Yesterday morning I received a Google Alert about this important trial. A few blog readers also “alerted” me to its existence (thanx!). I tracked down and devoured the full study. As mentioned in yesterday’s post, you can read the abstract here:

Let’s see. Based on the abstract, curcumin had a strong positive effect on the free light chain ratio…It also decreased a marker of bone resorption called uDPYD (= “urinary deoxypyridinoline”; without too much ado, let me just say that keeping it down down down is a good thing!) and diminished creatinine levels. Take my word for it: all good stuff!

Quick personal note: my own FLC ratio fluctuates madly with each test, down and up and down again, but I just read a sort of “P.S.” on my report, stating that this test doesn’t distinguish between polyclonal and monoclonal free light chains. Hmmm, not sure what to make of that… Another problem: I didn’t have my FLCs tested in the pre-curcumin period. Back then, I didn’t even know about ’em, let alone that they could be tested. So I can’t do any comparative work, since I don’t know what my baseline was…Too bad. However, on the Binding Site, I still turn out to be MGUS with BM suppression. So I’m not going to worry my pretty little head over thaaaat! 😉

Let’s get to the abstract conclusions: These findings suggest that curcumin might have the potential to slow the disease process in patients with MGUS and SMM.

I tell ya, after years of watching doctors roll their eyes at me and tell me that there was no way I could slow down the progress of this terrible cancer, I feel vindicated. Finally and completely. I mean, I’ve felt vindicated on a few occasions in the past few years, too. But this time it’s different…The results of this Australian trial, in which MGUS and SMM folks participated, have really put a lovely, delicious cherry on my (chocolate, of course!) cake. What I read yesterday confirms, to me anyway, that I made the right choice when, more than six years ago, I decided to take the “alternative” fork in the myeloma road…Not an easy choice, mind you. No, not back then. But I don’t want to dwell on the past…not today!

Okay, now, without revealing too many details (I don’t want to get into any trouble!), let me dive into the full study.

Its aim was to find out if a dose of 4 or 8 grams would have any effect on MGUS and SMM.

Now this is interesting. The patients in the curcumin “arm” swallowed (with yoghurt or another fat) C3 curcuminoid granule stick-packs. Stick-packs? Never heard of those. Of course, those who got a placebo for the first three months also swallowed stick-packs, without the curcumin inside ‘em, of course. Quick but important note: the study declares all the placebo ingredients, by the way, which is REALLY GOOD…Do you remember my recent placebo post? Yikes!

The main markers tested were: paraprotein, FLC values, total protein, B2M, PTH, albumin and creatinine. The one that stood out to me was the PTH test. PTH stands for parathyroid hormone. I mean, why was PTH preferred to, say, serum calcium, uric acid or LDH? Hmmm…perplexing. However, it turns out that a few patients had hyperparathyroidism, which is what I suffer from on occasion, when my vitamin D levels drop too much (I try to be careful about that!). Coincidence? Oh…bloody ‘ell, I have no idea what that means…I might have to write to the main author about this…Ok, let’s keep going…

I was super curious to find out what happened to the patients that dropped out of, or were excluded from, the study. What happened is that a few didn’t follow the program correctly, and a few progressed to active myeloma (based on which parameters, I wonder…hmmm…I’d love to know that…) and began doing chemotherapy. Incidentally, in “group A” (the original curcumin arm, that is), two of the four SMM patients who began chemo chose to continue taking curcumin. Three cheers for them! I’d love to know how they’re all doing…Does anyone know? (If you read my blog, please get in touch with me…I’d be thrilled! Thanks.)

As for group B, the original “placebo” arm, two patients left the study because of diarrhea issues, and one SMM patient progressed to full-blown myeloma.

Their data was therefore excluded.

Okay, let’s see what else we’ve got. No big changes occurred in paraprotein at the 4 gram dose. The big changes were the FLC ratio and the bone resorption marker, which, ahaaaa!, increased (= not good, eh) when the patients switched over to the placebo. That’s significant, I’d say!

Now we’re going to leave the 4 gram/day study and have a look at the subsequent, 8 gram/day curcumin arm. Here we have a total of 18 patients (9 from each group) who experienced significant reductions in FLC values, total protein and random urinary protein, as well as in uDPYD and PTH. Yaaaay! No changes noticed in serum albumin, B2M or hemoglobin.

I wanted to check those last three results against my own tests, but I ended up in a bit of a quagmire. The one that’s absolutely certain is hemoglobin. My Hb hasn’t changed a smidgen since the pre-curcumin period, when it was 13.2. It’s still 13.2. So, while curcumin is a metal chelator, at least it hasn’t made me anemic! What it did do, thank goodness!, was bring down my dangerously-near-the-high-end-of-the-normal-range iron levels to more manageable levels (my serum iron is now 72 micrograms/dL, as opposed to being in the upper hundreds. In one 2005 test, it even went to 164 mcg/dL, that is, 24 points above the reference range, yikes). And, since it’s not good to have high iron levels, I’m really happy about that. As for B2M and albumin, I was sorry to notice that their reference ranges have really changed over the years (verrrry annoying!), so it’s impossible to tell… Uff!

Oh well. Back to Australia, now. Remember, we’re having a look at the 8 gram takers, now. Here’s a good one: patients who began the study with an abnormal FLC (most of ‘em, that is) also had a reduction in their paraprotein levels, and this is important, since apparently this didn’t occur at the lower, 4 gram dose.

This seems to confirm that 4 grams is not a high enough dose if we really want to have an impact on our numbers. Just my interpretation, of course…

I know I shouldn’t be quoting from the full study, but I hope it’s okay to share this with you: To our knowledge, this is the first randomised study to show a beneficial effect of curcumin on light chains in MGUS and SMM patients. Normalization of the FLC ratio has previously been shown in myeloma patients after chemotherapy and have been reported to be highly predictive of achieving a complete response. Complete response, huh? Sweet. 

The study ends on an important note: None of the 25 patients who completed the 4g study (which includes the 18 on 8g/day) have progressed to active disease one year after the study has been completed. (Oh drat…another quote…ehm…)

Of course, only time will tell. But all these positive findings, all the improvements in important markers confirm that, for some of us (= those of us taking a higher dose, those of us who have wacky FLC numbers and so on…), perhaps most of us!, curcumin can indeed be a powerful helper in the battle against this terrible cancer. I’m living proof of that, aren’t I?

For now, anyway… 😉

Thank you, Australia!!!


  1. I just found out about Meriva curcumin which apparently is super bioavailable compared to every other form of curcumin. Anyone else use it or know about it?

  2. An encouraging study. My MM doc here in Sydney, Australia has been very supportive of my curcumin regime, which I began after reading your blog Margaret. 8gms/day taken with fish oil or yoghurt. He was adamant that he wanted me to continue the regime after my second STC.

  3. @ Terry

    I have found 3 brands: De Best, Thorne and Now Foods:

    I think i will use it, but first some more searching: is it more effective than curcumin with pepperine and visoil? And how much should we take? Less I suppose ..

  4. From the site
    A 2007 study published in the journal Cancer Chemotherapy and Pharmacology demonstrated Meriva’s superior bioavailability compared to a standardized curcumin extract. This animal study noted a significantly greater amount of curcumin in the blood and tissue after dosing with Meriva. A human study compared blood levels of curcumin after dosing with 4 grams of a standardized curcuminoid extract to 450 mg Meriva curcuminoids (bound to phosphatidylcholine), and found similar blood levels of curcumin.

    I have not found the study from 2007, but in this study you can read something about Meriva:

    Bioavailability of Curcumin: Problems and Promises

    What is your opinion, Margaret, is this a good alternative for us? It is in any case less expensive, as the bioavailability is so much better 🙂

  5. To save money, I’ve been taking 4 grams since the SCT in 2007, but I see that I would be better off to increase the dose to 8.

    You get a lot of tests I don’t get here in the US. I’ve never even had my iron tested, other than in a bone marrow biopsy.

  6. I can not present any objective data that supports the following. Based upon visual inspection, my stool is no longer tinged yellow. I experience less a tendency toward loose stools. I speculate this means that less of my ingested curcumin is excreted. My actions represent what seems reasonable and moderate.
    I make what I speculate is an liposomal encapsulation of curcumin. I use 4 heaping tablespoons of soy lecithin granules to one cup of distilled water. I mix the foregoing to create a solution. To this solution I mix 30 grams of ground C3 (Dr.s Best) curcumin. I utilize a mortar and pestle to grind the curcumin tablets to a fine consistency. I then deposit this mixture into a small Ultrasonic jewelry cleaner. I subject this mixture to about 20 minutes of ultrasonic excitation. During this 20 minutes I manually mix the contents of the cleaner utilizing a small spatula. After the 20 minutes I deposit the contents into 6 jars. A rough calculation gives me about 5 grams in each jar which I consume daily.
    I welcome any comments. I am not wedded to this protocol.

  7. Regarding curcumin, I thought it would be best if I first consult with a Naturopathic Doctor who would consult with my oncologist/hematologist. I realize this is expensive, but after all we are talking about our very life here. I am wondering if any of you who are taking curcumin have done this?

  8. Thanks Hans and Ron, I am definitely going to use Thorne Meriva SR curcumin after reading all of the information. It does seem vastly superior to everything else vis-a-vis bioavailability. There are many studies which mention it on the NIH Pub Med. Margaret, what do you think? The company that developed the technology is coincidentally based in Italy! Terry from NJ

  9. Jim

    Does the solution become soluable? Or, does it fall out of solution when sitting?

    By the way, The vitacost brand is similar to the Dr.s Best and it comes in capsules. Pull them apart and you won’t need to grind them.

  10. My Dr put me onto the trial for Curcumin, if I want to take somthing new I just ask him and he lets me know if its ok or not. He is the Haematologist running the trials in Sydney, its great having the support of a MD in this instance who is prepared to look at natural substances.

  11. Mike
    With 4 heaping tablespoons to one cup of distilled water the mixture remains in solution.
    When I used 3 heaping tablespoons I did get a precipitate. So I figured that I needed a bit more lecithin.
    Thanks for the tip about the Vitacost product. I will look into it.

  12. Louise
    I am not aware of any formal studies or anecdotal evidence that suggest curcumin has serious downsides at doses of 4 to 8 grams per day. I doubt many medical doctors keep up on with what research there is on supplements. What research I’ve read on supplements does not prove cause and effect on humans, i.e. evidence based medicine. Of course if one is taking prescriptions medications one should be aware of interactions. It would be great if chronobiology was considered.

  13. I was diagnosed as having SMM three months ago (IgG variety, M spike 2.1, bone marrow 24%, high lambdas). No symptoms yet, thank god. I am being treated at MSKCC (watchful waiting), and am starting a SMM trail next week with Dr. Mazumder at NYU with “sea cucumber” TBL 12. I started taking Doctor’s Best C3 Curcumin three weeks ago (4 grams in morning, 4 grams in evening) along with fish oil.

    My question is, a lot of research seems to show the superior bioavailability of Meriva over Curcumin C3. One such study suggested that its increased bioavailability might allow one to take a lower dose with similar results. See for example: : “The improved absorption, and possibly also a better plasma curcuminoid profile, might underlie the clinical efficacy of Meriva at doses significantly lower than unformulated curcuminoid mixtures.”)

    Do you recommend switching to a Meriva formulated curcumin? If so, at what dosage? I would imagine that 8 grams of Meriva is much too high.

  14. Hi Margaret,

    I’ve been taking 8 grams of turmeric a day for about 8 months now. After the 1st 3 months my M-spike went down from 1.9 to 1.69. However my most recent test showed it back at 1.9. So discouraging.

    I have been taking the turmeric 1/2 hour before meals. Now I see recommendations to take it with fats like fish oil or yogurt.

    Is there a best way to take turmeric? It would certainly be easier to take it with meals and all my other supplements.

    I will also be looking for more activity on JQ1, the Bradner-Harvard team molecule.

    Thank you again Margaret for giving me more hope than either my hematologist (who dismisses MGUS as nothing to worry about) or that the study team at NIH.


  15. I saw some 1000mgm curcumin pills. would u have to take 8 of these a day for smoldering myeloma?

    Bruce Van Horn MD

  16. Ron,

    I’m taking turmeric. Curcumin is extacted from the root of turmeric. So each 500 mg capsule of turmeric I take contains 475 mg curcuminoids.


  17. Mary

    The in vivo studies have been done with curcumin products. I believe there are more active curcuminoids available with curcumin.
    Margaret would have more info at hand concerning this.


  18. Mary

    Most sources list tumeric as containing 2-4% curcumin by weight. Also have you been on the same exact product since starting yhe tumeric?


  19. Hi Margaret. I was excited to find this blog. I was beginning to think I was crazy with my symptoms. Thank you for the valuable information. I have mgus diagnosed age 30 now 45 of age. Have rib pain and just had mri. Ferritan at 470 creatine 41.9 and microalbumin random 679. I also have the anklosis gene and waiting to confirm if I have anklosis spondylitis. Also have leakey kidney. definitly auto immune. discouraged by doctors lack of options.
    I have started taking curcu viva ? pain seems to have gone away immediatly? Will do blood counts in October to see if any change in blood work . Have undergone a complete diet change as well.( gluten free nothing processed no more diet coke and limit sugars and alchol) Also have found a doctor that encourages health and lifestyle to improve quality of life.

    question: any side effects with curcumin ? How long can I take it or is this part of the daily regime? I have not told my main doctor of taking this product.Would love any input from you. Thanks again for the great blog.

  20. John

    How goes the trial with sea cucumber. Do they know you are taking curcumin,as it seems to me this might taint data for the sea cucumber response.


  21. ron, whatever happened with your numbers strictly on the meriva thorne sr rather than the c3? and how much do you take? Are you mgus or smm? thanks for the info..

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