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Curcumin, a compound found in turmeric, could ‘halt tumour development’, major study says

New scientific research has found that a common compound found in the spice turmeric could stop cancerous tumours from growing further.

A study, carried out by academics at Temple University in Philadelphia, and published in the Nutrients journal, found the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of curcumin halted the development of eight different types of cancer.

Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia examined nearly 5,000 studies carried out using curcumin – found in turmeric – since 1924. The results found that the colourful compound could help block tumour development

Analysing nearly 5,000 studies, researchers said the compound – which gives turmeric its bright orange colour – was effective at treating pancreatic, bowel, bone marrow, prostate, breast, lung, blood and stomach cancer.

Results showed nutrients that the tumours needed to thrive were halted by curcumin, which also blocked harmful proteins produced by cancer cells.

The study’s lead scientists concluded that the compound could ‘represent an effective drug for cancer treatment, alone or combined with other agents’.

Dr Antonio Giordano, a pathologist at Temple University, lead a team who looked at almost 13,000 studies carried out on curcumin since 1924, focusing specifically on 4,738 studies that looked at how the compound affected cancer.

The study’s authors said: “The search for new effective drugs able to combat cancer diseases still represents a challenge for many scientists. 

“Natural organisms (e.g., plants, bacteria, fungi) provide many active molecules with a potential application in medicine for the management of many diseases. 

No major study on curcumin has been carried out on humans; it’s hoped the latest research could trigger such a trial

“As reported in the present review, curcumin exhibits anticancer ability by targeting different cell signaling pathways including growth factors, [the transport of nutrients and killing healthy cells].”

It’s hoped the latest research could now trigger large-scale human trials, required before a drug can be commonly used. No major study on humans has yet been carried out using curcumin.  

A spokesperson for Cancer Research UK said: “There is some evidence that curcumin, a substance in turmeric, can kill cancer cells in certain cancers. But we need more research. 

“It seems to be able to kill cancer cells and prevent more from growing. It has the best effects on breast cancer, bowel cancer, stomach cancer and skin cancer cells.

“At the moment there is no clear evidence in humans to show that turmeric or curcumin can prevent or treat cancer.”

Temple University, Philadelphia