Curcumin improves chemo drug effectiveness

Curcumin improves chemo drug effectiveness

A good number of research studies provide convincing evidence that curcumin, or turmeric, improves the effectiveness of chemotherapy drugs, for example 5-FU and carboplatin, whilst acting against cancer cells and protecting healthy cells.

Ever been told by your Doctor that he doesn’t want you taking supplements in case they spoil his wonder chemo drugs? Well, actually, he may well be very wrong. The biochemistry of a cancer cell and a healthy cell is completely different. A poison to one may wellt be nourishment for the other. There are a number of good research studies on the benefits of taking certain bioactive compounds, including antioxidants whilst on chemotherapy. Curcumin, or turmeric, is one such compound.

Here are some examples for the drug fluorouracil or 5-FU, (a chemo that was first approved in 1956) and curcumin. 5-FU is a drug commonly used with oxaliplatin (and Folonic acid) in treating colorectal cancer (the combination is dubbed FOLFOX); or in FOLFIRI for the same cancer; and in treatments such as FEC-T for breast cancer, with Epirubicin and Cyclophosphamide.

5-FU is known to be cytoxic to healthy cells, and curcumin reduces toxicity by 7-10 fold, without weakening the attack on cancer cells; plus it actually enhances its action against cancer cells.

Curcumin acts to sensitize cancer cells to the effects of drug treatment and has additional actions against cancer. For example, on its own it performs against the cancer tumour slightly worse that the combination of the two colorectal drugs. But when measuring cancer stem cells, which bring about the regrowth of the tumour, cur cumin reduces their numbers much more that the combination of drugs does. 

1. Curcumin enhances the effects of 5-fluorouracil and oxaliplatin in mediating growth inhibition of colon cancer cells by modulating EGFR and IGF-1R.

Hardly a small claim this, the conclusion was that curcumin should be used with the two colorectal drugs(1). 

2. Curcumin acts on cancer stem cells missed by 5-FU and oxaliplatin.

FOLFOX treatment on its own has limited success and actually seems to enrich (increase) the numbers of colorectal stem-cells after use. However, the addition of curcumin, reduces them. In further studies on its own, while curcumin killed off 5% less cancer cells, it significantly reduced the overall number of cancer stem cells that could regrow (2). 

3. Curcumin chemosensitizes 5-fluorouracil resistant MMR-deficient human colon cancer cells in high density cultures

Some colorectal cancer cells are just simply resistant to 5-FU. But not after curcumin is introduced (3). 

4. Curcumin reduces cytotoxicity of 5-Fluorouracil treatment in human breast cancer cells

Concerned about breast cancer drug toxicity? After curcumin was introduced there was a 7-10 fold reduction in healthy cell damage(4). 

There is also an MD Anderson Clinical Trial in progress at this moment using curcumin along with capecitabine and radiotherapy for colorectal cancer. Capecitabine is the pro-drug of Fluorouracil.  

There is actually one caveat. In some instances, curcumin supplementation can lower your blood platelets. Nurses and oncologists sometimes express concerns to patients. But then, there's research on the drug Dipyridamole which does exactly this and actually slows cancer progression. Cancer needs platelets to form blood supplies, and to grow, and to spread. Lowered platelets can be good news!

 * * * * * *


1. Ref: Int J Cancer. 2008 Jan 15;122(2):267-73.

2. Ref: 2009.

3. Ref: PLoS One. 2014 Jan 3;9(1):e85397. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0085397. eCollection 2014

4. Ref: J Med Food. 2015 Apr;18(4):497-502. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2013.0086. Epub 2014 Jan 29.

                      CANCERactive - the appliance of Science

2015 Research
CancerAcitve Logo
Subscribe (Free e-Newsletter)

Join Chris'

Join Chris' NewsletterSignup today for free and be the first to get notified on new updates.