Curcumin and bortezomib

October 14th 2008 post: A couple of blog readers, thanks!, as well as a Google Alert, informed me of a new study on multiple myeloma, bortezomib (=Velcade) and curcumin, which Sherlock (grazie!) found and sent to me.

It was published in Molecular Oncology in September. You can view the abstract here: Important things: curcumin stopped myeloma cells and bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) from producing pro-inflammatory cytokines and VEGF, which are associated with myeloma progression and resistance to chemotherapy. (BMSCs are crucial for myeloma cell growth and survival.) The main message is that curcumin increases the therapeutic efficacy of bortezomib in myeloma. Sounds good.

On to the full study, now: to achieve high response rates in relapsed MM patients, various combinations of bortezomib plus conventional agents […] have been used successfully in clinical trials. Researchers in general, the study tells us, are looking for other substances to test with bortezomib. In this study the most promising substance turned out to be curcumin.

Something I did not know: the effects of curcumin on bone marrow stromal cells (BMSCs) interacting with MM cells in bone marrow microenvironments has not been investigated. So the researchers tested these effects on myeloma cells alone or co-cultured with BMSCs. In the first 24 hours nothing good happened, that is, myeloma cell proliferation continued. In fact, in the presence of BMSCs, the proliferation accelerated. But after 72 hours of exposure to curcumin, the proliferation of MM cells alone or co-cultured was inhibited in a dose-dependent manner. Well. Well. I thought it was interesting that myeloma cells had to be exposed to curcumin for THREE days before anything happened…food for thought.

Another important finding: combined treatment with bortezomib and curcumin increased apoptosis in U266 cells as compared with either compound alone

In the Discussion part of the study, the researchers inform us that cell viability of the IL-6 dependent cell line, U266, was enhanced by BMSCs, indicating that survival of U266 cells was considerably influenced by the interaction with BMSCs, most likely due to the release by BMSCs of several growth factors that promote MM cell growth. Curcumin inhibited the release of these growth factors, thus stunting myeloma cell growth. Good!

An important excerpt: […] synergism between curcumin and bortezomib can be achieved at low concentrations of bortezomib […]. So curcumin can potentiate the therapeutic efficacy of low dose bortezomib, thus reducing toxicity issues associated with the use of high-dose bortezomib. How about THAT? Wouldn’t it be great if myeloma patients could use lower doses of Velcade thanks to curcumin? 

The researchers go on to say that only curcumin dramatically blocked the phosphorylation of both STAT3 and Erk. Phosphorylation of STAT3 and Erk protects tumor cells from undergoing apoptosis when cancer cells are exposed to anti-cancer drugs. In a nutshell, bortezomib didn’t stop phosphorylation, a process that protects tumor cells from dying; curcumin DID, whereby increasing the anti-myeloma effectiveness of bortezomib.  

The researchers end by stating that the combination of curcumin and bortezomib can be utilized as a novel MM treatment regimen. I had already read that curcumin can be used in combination with Velcade, but I hadn’t yet seen such strong proof. And how about the study’s suggestion that lower doses of bortezomib could be used by myeloma patients if curcumin were added to the mix? Wowie zowie.


  1. Hi Margaret, I am so glad I found your blog! You have very solid info, intelligent comments and excellent links. My husband was just diagnosed with mm less than 3 weeks ago. He is on Velcade, dexamethasone, lenolidamide and once a month he gets zometa. He is a composer and conductor and a vital man at 71, but he is currently getting a bit stomped by mm’s curatives along with its dastardly agenda. I am very intrigued by curcumin and want to send his oncologist some basic articles to read since he registered a blank when I asked him about adding curcumin. Any suggestions you could make would be greatly appreciated. About us- we live in Las Vegas, NV and are both at UNLV’s Dept. of Fine Arts. A friend alerted me to your always interesting blog and I have turned to it frequently. I am ready to do what it takes to get him better- he has an opera to write and another he’s always polishing and is never finished with- ah, the artist! In case you care to, you could visit his website and sample his music at (that’s his name, Virko Baley). Thank you for reading this and I look forward to hearing from you at your convenience! Best, Tricia Baley

    1. Hi Tricia,
      Did you go ahead with the curcumin protocol? My mom is going through treatment at the moment Valcade/ Dex/ Cyclophosphamide.
      Doctors are suggesting a stem cell transplant. What treatment plan did you follow?


  2. Hi,
    My mom was diagnosed with mm in octobervof 2012. Shevwas being treated with zometa and aredia. Last week she was very week a we ended up bringing her into the er. Looks like mm has progressed suddenly, causingbhigh calcium issues. We have started and i was researching the effects of curcumin. Do you know where i can buy this product? Any help will be appreciated.

  3. Hi, Manisha! It depends where do you live. If you live in Italy try to buy it with or (they have the best price). If you live in other parts of the world… then search on Internet. However I noticed that in the one-two years the prices for curcumin are encreased a lot 🙁

  4. Drinking lots and lots of water helps keep the calcium levels low. My wife has MM and drinks a gallon of water per day. Not counting coffee , juice, etc per day she also drinks. No calcium problems.

  5. I am confused re Bortezomid and curcumin. I have been advised by the oncologist that antioxidants reduce the effectiveness of bortez in treating my multiple myeloma. On the packaging for curcumin it touts it’s antioxidant properties. This would suggest to me that it would not be adviseable to use with Bortezomid. Would appreciate comments

    1. David,

      Green tea is the antioxidant that you cannot take with Bortizomib. It is so powerful that it neutratizes the chemo. Amazing, isn’t it. I took it two years ago – has it changed? Now on daratumumab immunotherapy – So nice after over 5 years of chemo treatments and SCT – to have something that actually works and doesn’t tear down my immune system.

      Good luck,

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