Common Turmeric Fights Cancer Cells

Keeps skin cancers from dividing and growing

The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of turmeric - an herb native to southern and southeastern Asia and which belongs to the ginger family - have been known throughout the ages.

Traditional Indian medicine has used turmeric powder for everything from coughs and sore throats to diabetic ulcers, sprains and rheumatism. It is also is widely used in various curries.

But according to a study published earlier this week in the journal 'Cancer', curcumin, the pigment that gives turmeric its yellow tint, also keeps the deadliest skin cancers from dividing and growing and in fact stimulates apoptosis—or intracellular death which causes cancer cells to kill themselves.

Curcumin is currently being tested on patients with multiple myeloma, an incurable bone marrow cancer, as well as pancreatic cancer. Researchers at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston also hope to test the compound on breast cancer patients after last month reporting that curcumin stopped breast tumour cells from spreading to the lungs in mice injected with human breast cancer cells.

"We are taking one tumour at a time and reporting the effects of curcumin," says Bharat Aggarwal of the department of experimental therapeutics at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Centre and a co-author of the study.

Last January, researchers at the University of California at Los Angeles reported that curcumin destroyed the sticky brain plaques linked with Alzheimer's disease in mice. Other scientists are testing it on diseases as diverse as cystic fibrosis, alcohol-related liver disease and inflammatory bowel disease.

At the same time, Australian scientists have discovered the molecules of pineapple can act as powerful anti-cancer agents. Scientists at the Queensland Institute of Medical Research (QIMR) say their work focused on two molecules from bromelain, an extract derived from crushed pineapple stems.

"We found that the proteins found within the stems could block growth of a broad range of tumour cells including breast, lung, colon, ovarian and melanoma," says Tracey Mynott, lead QIMR researcher.

QIMR has launched a two year study to examine the safety of the treatment.

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