MD Anderson curcumin-myeloma clinical trial results

January 9th post. I was waiting to read the full MD Anderson report before discussing the curcumin-myeloma trial results here, but Chris’ comment on yesterday’s post, on top of all the private messages I have received to this regard, made me decide this morning to go ahead and write a post even though, I repeat, I don’t have ALL the facts and numbers. I will certainly have more to say on the topic as soon as I read the full study, which hasn’t been published yet. In the meantime, for what it’s worth, here goes!

Oh, before proceeding, though, I wanted to mention that you can view Prof. Aggarwal’s ASH presentation on the International Myeloma Foundation’s website: One important thing he points out is that, even when as little as TWO grams of curcumin were administered to some of the myeloma patients in the clinical trial, after four weeks a downregulation of the evil (I added the "evil" part) transcription factor NF-kappaB was observed. After 24 weeks, no NF-kappaB could be detected in some of these patients. Not even a glimpse. And they were taking only two grams. How about that?

Prof. Aggarwal also says that cancer treatment requires the inhibition of more than a single pathway, which makes curcumin an ideal agent since it inhibits several different pathways involved in cancer progression. A key sentence: “Although this study was very interesting and we did find the downregulation of various markers for cancer in MM pts, no objective responses were noted. So, in the future, I think that it would be interesting to combine curcumin with some of the existing treatments.”

A few introductory comments of my own: we know from the huge number of studies published on curcumin that this biologically active compound has extraordinary anticancer properties in vitro. Frequently, however, extraordinary properties do not work as well, or indeed at all!, when applied in vivo. It’s one thing to inject curcumin directly into some cancerous cell cultures, quite another for us to swallow a capsule or pill and hope that eventually our myeloma cells will be blasted by enough active curcumin. As we know, when taken orally, most of the swallowed curcumin gets transformed into (probably) less powerful, perhaps even useless metabolites (first-pass metabolism etc.). The issue of bioavailability pops up, again.

So the big question is: how do we get enough still-active curcumin delivered right smack into our cancerous cells? Eh. Still working on that!

ASH abstract. Thanks to the kindness of someone who sent me the abstract presented by the MD Anderson curcumin myeloma trial researchers at the American Society of Hematology (ASH) meeting held in December 2007, I was able to read some of the preliminary clinical trial data. Jan 15 UPDATE: here is the link to the abstract:

The abstract tells us that the MD Anderson clinical trial (which is still recruiting patients, by the way) consisted of 29 myeloma patients with asymptomatic, relapsed/refractory, or plateau phase disease. They took curcumin capsules without bioperine, 2, 4, 6, 8, or 12 grams/day in two divided doses, OR curcumin capsules with bioperine, 10 grams, again twice a day. The abstract tells us that “At least 6 pts are enrolled at each dose level; 3 on the curcumin arm and 3 on the curcumin + bioperine arm.” Conclusions: “Of the 29 evaluable pts treated so far, no objective responses have been seen. Twelve pts continued treatment for more than 12 weeks and 5 (1 patient at 4 grams, 2 pts at 6 grams, and 2 pts at 8 grams dose levels) completed one year of treatment with stable disease.”

Key words: “stable disease.” These patients remained STABLE. My glass is half full, not half empty. Always. 

Most of the people with whom I have corresponded privately have focused on the “disappointing” trial results, that is, not one of these myeloma patients experienced a decrease in her/his myeloma markers. But that is precisely what I expected since my own results from my capsule experiments have been similar. So I am not disappointed. Not at all. Sure, it would have been great to see a decrease at least in one patient since I (myself) did experience a fluky IgG decrease in September of 2006 that may or may not be ascribed to my curcumin capsules with bioperine intake (update: my parents pointed out to me that the way I worded this last sentence makes it seem as though my September 2006 IgG decrease has been my ONLY decrease to date. That is not the case, of course. I have experienced decreases  while taking curcumin powder. So I thought I should clarify that I was referring to capsules here). I say "fluky" because at the time, pre-blog era, I wasn’t keeping good records on my intake, and when, months later, I repeated the capsule with bioperine experiment my results were stable, that is, there was no decrease. Hmmm.

Well, anyway, in my view, the following trial results are even more important than disease stability (which is important enough!): “Oral administration of curcumin significantly downregulated the constitutive activation of NF-kB (at 3 months a median reduction of 77%, p<0.0001) and STAT3 (69%, p<0.001), and suppressed COX2 (66%, p<0.0001) expression in most of the pts at each of the monthly time points.”

Check out those percentages! Accipicchia! Excellent! This means that curcumin is able to inhibit all the overly active transcription factors that make myeloma cells proliferate…and this happened IN VIVO! That is, in spite of its low oral bioavailability, curcumin was still able to inhibit these bothersome pathways in myeloma patients. In vitro translates to in vivo. That result is not at all disappointing but very very exciting. To me, at least. Oh, I can’t wait to read the full report.

UPDATE: I just had a quick look and found the abstract to the clinical trial, so I thought I would post it immediately:


  1. I am confused about which curcumin pills to purchase. Could you tell me where, on-line, you bought yours? And, thanks for the educational explanation of the trial. I am newly diagnosed and read about this earlier, but I am still processing all the information. I appreciate your assistance!

  2. I buy Doctor’s Best (the 500 mg capsules with bioperine, not the one-gram pills, which contain silicon dioxide) from Vitacost. That may not be the cheapest online source, but I like the fact that its deliveries are prompt and reliable.
    If you decide to try curcumin, please have a look at my “Curcumin protocol” and “Side effects and warnings” pages. And please don’t hesitate to contact me via my blog’s Contact form if you have any other questions.
    Ciao! 🙂

    1. Margaret sono passati molti anni dal tuo post. Ma a quanto pare la tua testimonianza e’ importante perchĂ© mi e’stato girato il tuo blog da un’amica, sapendo che ho un familiare a cui oggi hanno diagnosticato un mieloma multiplo.
      Tu vivi in Italia, pure io.
      Mi gireresti il link del protocollo che hai seguito, o mi daresti informazioni per sapere a chi rivolgermi?
      Grazie mille!

    2. Hi Margaret,

      Is silicon dioxide in one-gram pills bad for myeloma ?

      Taking 8 capsules rather than 16 is easier for my mom.

      Thanks !

  3. Hi Margaret,
    My father is 74 years-old, diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma. He underwent treatment with Velcade for about 1 year and remained in remission for about 10 months. A couple of weeks ago, he was found to have relapsed and is going to start chemotherapy again. In the searching for information, I have read some books regarding factors (dietary, environmental, life-style, etc) that may play a role in the development of cancer, in general. Recently, I came across information on the benefits or potential benefits of Curcumin in the treatment of Multiple Myeloma. So, I guess my question to you is what is the best choice/source – to your knowledge – of purchasing Curcumin supplements? Any suggestion in regards to that or anything else? PS: My English is still very imperfect and I would like for you -and all the people blogging here – to excuse that! Attentively, Israel.

  4. Hi Israel
    Firstly your English is excellent!!, the Curcumin that Margaret and a lot of others take is the C3 Complex with bioperine. You can find a lot of companies that carry this line in either 500g or 1000g. A popular one used is the Dr Best or Dr Purest curcumin c3 complex which is the same one used in the MD Anderson clinical trials. You can do a google search to find the best source to buy online from where you live or from the USA which seems to have good pricing, I live in Australia and it is cheaper for me to purchase from the USA. Good luck and if you need to know anything else, just ask away, I am sure somebody will be able to help. If you look to the right of Margarets blog she does have information on her protocol.

  5. Spoke with AFI which uses the sabinsa curcumin and they have it without the bioperine at 500 mg–and wondering how to start this protocol, am concerned that the bioperine will upset my IBS–and was told by the AFI rep that it is the biop that causes side effects NOT the curcumin–,he suggested I open capsules and put it in yogurt, he said taking a fish oil even in liquid would not help if the capsule is still taken whole..did not know that–he said the yogurt is what most people do that can’t tolerate the, wonder if I took 3grams a day with Doctor’s best which would be only 15 mg of biop and then took the rest in the non biop version from AFi, both of these are the sabinsa c3 type per their website–anyone else do this? Or, does the lack of bioperine make the curcumin ineffective..if 8g a day are what is needed to keep numbers down–then I want to make sure I’ve got this thing right…..thanks for some insight….I also wrote to Dr. Baggarwal, because the guy at AFi told me they used the NON bioperine at 8g and got the good results at the cancer center–wanted to confirm this…

  6. I hope that you are doing well. I read about the trial in the book, Anticancer A New Way of Life, by David Servan-Schrieber, MD, PhD. He said that to be effectively absorbed, turmeric must be mixed with black pepper or ginger and dissolved in oil. Thank you for publishing what you have found. I am just beginning to look at Dr. Aggarwal’s work and I will begin here.

  7. Thanks all for the great info.
    My sis has been daignosed with stage 4 tnbc cancer with mets to the bones and brain and has not been given a long prognosis.
    We are trying very hard since the diagnosis to find a decent treatment besides the regular chemo.
    Can you help us to contact Dr Aggarwal so that he can suggest some medications.
    Also does curcumin work in tnbc
    We will really appreciate any help in the same.

  8. Just saw your columns….how refreshing and inspiring! After a real scare with pneumonia I have decided to pay more attention to research and nutrition…and there was your column. Although we don’t have much in common…I was initially diagnosed with MGUS at the same time I was suffering from acute back pain. Finally determined I had 5 vertebral compression fractures and full blown MM. I was treated at MD Anderson in Houston from June through early December of 2013….chemo, radiation and stem cell transplant. I am on Revlimid 10 mg. and an experimental drug MLN9708. Doing very good, returned to work part-time and immediately made plans with my 2 best friends to take our ‘bucket list’ trip to Italy! Right before departure I came down with an upper respiratory infection…started antibiotics. Five days into trip, in a beautiful bed and breakfast outside Borga San Lorenzo (Porchialonga – can’t find name right now) (looks like I was very near where you live…)I was not getting better….ended up seeing an English speaking doctor in heart of old Florence….another antibiotic got me well enough to enjoy the Tuscany countryside, Cinque Terra and Venice. Returned home 3 weeks ago and got sick again last week….ended up in emergency room and then hospitalized with pneumonia. After wondering if I would leave the hospital and then recovering, I decided to devote more time to researching ways to improve my health and QOL. And then there was your blog…sent my my local MM Support group. I just wanted to let you know that you have inspired me today…and wanted to thank you.

  9. Hello. I would like to buy Sabinsa C3 curcumin. There are many brands out there and I would like to know which brand they used at MD Anderson studies. Thank you for your help. I also would like to know why you do not take the 1 gram curcumin pill with silicon dioxide.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *