Better Than Chemo: Turmeric Kills Cancer Not Patients

Better Than Chemo

About one hundred times less toxic than chemotherapy, turmeric extract (curcumin) was found more effective at killing colorectal cancer stem cells from patients than a popular combination of conventional drugs.

Researchers from the United Kingdom have just made a major breakthrough in cancer research by demonstrating for the first time in patient-derived colorectal cell lines that a turmeric extract (curcumin) is not only an effective adjunct agent to enhance conventional chemotherapy, but that it may be even more effective on its own.

Published this month in Cancer Letters and titled, “Curcumin inhibits cancer stem cell phenotypes in ex vivo models of colorectal liver metastases, and is clinically safe and tolerable in combination with FOLFOX chemotherapy,” the study evaluated the so-called “diet-derived agent” curcumin — the primary polyphenol in turmeric — as a possible adjunct to enhance conventional treatment of colorectal cancer with chemotherapy.

The primary role of cancer stem cells in contributing to cancer malignancy as well as resistance to conventional treatmentis addressed in the study. Whereas traditional cancer research methods focus on a treatment’s ability to reduce tumor volume (or the number of cells in a cancer cell culture), the cancer stem cell theory acknowledges that treatments have highly differential effects on the different cell types that comprise the tumor; namely, whereas the relatively benign daughter cells of a tumor may die when exposed to chemotherapy, the relatively chemotherapy-resistant cancer stem cell population (so-called “mother” cells) can actually increase in number as the tumor volume decreases, resulting in creating an albeit smaller but far more dangerous, treatment-resistant tumor.

The study design and results were summarized in the abstract below:

Here, we utilised patient-derived colorectal liver metastases (CRLM) to assess whether curcumin may provide added benefit over 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) and oxaliplatin (FOLFOX) in cancer stem cell (CSC) models. Combination of curcumin with FOLFOX chemotherapy was then assessed clinically in a phase I dose escalation study. Curcumin alone and in combination significantly reduced spheroid number in CRLM CSC models, and decreased the number of cells with high aldehyde dehydrogenase activity (ALDHhigh/CD133−). Addition of curcumin to oxaliplatin/5-FU enhanced anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic effects in a proportion of patient-derived explants, whilst reducing expression of stem cell-associated markers ALDH and CD133. The phase I dose escalation study revealed curcumin to be a safe and tolerable adjunct to FOLFOX chemotherapy in patients with CRLM (n = 12) at doses up to 2 grams daily.”

As you can see above, the researchers discovered that curcumin is both a safe and effective adjunct in the treatment of colorectal cancer. They noted the significance of these findings by pointing out that this was “the first time that curcumin may enhance oxaliplatin/5-FU-based chemotherapy in models derived directly from patients for whom the treatments are ultimately intended.” Specifically, the curcumin was able to inhibit what is known as “spheroid formation,” a 3-dimensional configuration of cells that indicates cancer stem cell driven cancer progression. Curcumin was also found to down-regulate cancer stem cell associated markers (e.g., CD44 and CD166 and ALDH activity), and various other chemical signals associated with carcinogenesis (e.g., epidermal growth factor, insulin-like growth factor and Notch). All these activities, taken together, indicate that curcumin is capable of targeting the stem cells at the heart of cancer malignancy. You can learn more about this in a previous article we wrote documenting curcumin’s ability to kill cancer stem cells: “Turmeric Extract Strikes To the Root Cause of Cancer Malignancy.” We also featured turmeric extract’s ability toselectively target cancer cells while leaving healthy ones intact in a previous article titled, “Turmeric’s ‘Smart Kill’ Properties Put Chemo & Radiation To Shame.”

But what is even more remarkable about the new study is that the researchers found curcumin outperformed the combination chemotherapy treatment (5-FU/oxaliplatin) in decreasing the cancer stem cell linked spheroid formation: “In addition, curcumin alone decreased spheroid number to a greater extent than the 5-FU/oxaliplatin treatments.”

This tremendously provocative finding is given only brief mention in the paper. When you look at the toxicological risks associated with chemotherapy agents like 5-FU, which have an oral LD50 in rats of only 230 milligrams/per kilogram, and compare it to curcumin, with an LD50 in rats of 12.2 grams/per kilogram, you can begin to appreciate the revolutionary implications of this research. [Note: An LD50 is the dose required to kill 50% of a test population of animals, i.e. the lethal dose 50%.] Technically, therefore, 5-FU is 53 times more toxic than curcumin, yet according to this research, less capable in combination with oxaliplatin of killing cancer spheroids than curcumin. Oxaliplatin itself has an oral LD50 in rats of about 100 mg per kilogram, making it 122 times more toxic than curcumin. For additional information on the relative toxicity and ineffectiveness of chemotherapy in comparison to natural substances, you can also read:Research: Pineapple Enzyme Kills Cancer Without Killing You.

Clearly, findings like these reveal the conventional chemotherapy paradigm for what it is: a toxicological nightmare offering only questionable efficacy relative to food-derived compounds. The authors of the study acknowledge that, “Curcumin may provide added benefit in subsets of patients when administered with FOLFOX, and is a well-tolerated chemotherapy adjunct.”

We concur that this is true, especially considering that curcumin has been found to reduce the side effects caused by conventional treatment. But is that all? Shouldn’t curcumin be considered a first-line treatment itself? While the researchers do mention in their concluding remarks that, “Greater pro-apoptotic [inducing cancer suicide programs] and CSC [cancer stem cell] targeting efficacy was observed for curcumin than for oxaliplatin and 5-FU in a small patient subset, warranting further investigation to determine factors that influence response to curcumin,” this doesn’t seem strong enough. We believe that given the great burden not only of cancer, but cancer treatment-related morbidity and mortality, it is ethically imperative that curcumin should be investigated as the active intervention in future clinical trials compared with conventional treatment. We can no longer pretend that the reason why curcumin is not studied on par with patented chemical medicines is because of a lack of compelling research. This study proves it exists. The key is breaking through the mile high paywall (approximately 800 million dollars needed to fund the requisite clinical trials) that separates natural non-patented substances from FDA-drug approval. In the meantime, a growing population is taking their health into their own hands, and finding ways to prevent and even treat cancer through dietary interventions and related natural approaches.

For those doubtful that curcumin possesses significant anti-cancer properties, please review our curcumin database which contains over 1500 studies showing it’s value in over one hundred different types of cancer here:Curcumin research. You can also look at our research and article on Turmeric, which includes even more research on the value of this ancient healing spice: Turmeric Health Guide. Finally, use our Cancer Research Health Guide for an even more comprehensive set of data on natural interventions for a variety of cancers.


Eggs Increase Risk for Heart Disease


Egg consumption may increase the risk for heart disease, according to a study published in Atherosclerosis. Researchers monitored the diets of 23,417 South Korean participants through the Kangbuk Samsung Health Study and found that heart disease risk increased incrementally with increased egg intake. Those who ate the most eggs, compared with those who ate the least, had 80 percent higher coronary artery calcium scores, a measure of heart disease risk.

Eggs also appeared to increase the risk for obesity, diabetes, and hypertension.

Choi Y, Chang , Lee JE, et al. Egg consumption and coronary artery calcification in asymptomatic men and women. Atherosclerosis. 2015;241:305-312.

Meat alert on the Hill

Congress Blogicon

 Announced in the quiet of Congressional recess, new data published this week by Consumer Reports indicates that ground beef often contains bacteria that causes sickness in humans and resists drug treatment. Congress should take note. Fortunately, the United States Department of Agriculture already rolled out meat substitutes in school lunches nationwide, replacing meat with equally protein-rich alternatives. It’s part of a shift in national dietary guidelines, and it’s long overdue. Our current approach to diets is not only unhealthy but also unsustainable.

Federally appointed health experts serving on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee agree with this assessment and recommend a rethink on the future of American food and nutrition programs. Congress will want to pay attention, as the committee’s findings will have a major impact on what we eat.


In submitting a scientific report to the Secretaries of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), this year’s committee recommended less meat and more plants as essential for the health of America’s population and the planet. Hundreds of prominent environmental and health leaders agree, submitting a letter to HHS Secretary Silvia Matthews Burwell and Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, encouraging the adoption of sustainability standards and considerations.Influencing the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a document published every five years by the HHS and USDA that guides U.S. food programs and nutrition policies, is a competitive space as innumerable meat and dairy industries are also interested in altering outcomes and have been fighting the committee’s recommendations. Industry realizes how big of a deal it is for HHS and USDA’s own Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee to call for plant-based diets.

It’s unsurprising that industry would be on the defensive. The impact of the guidelines on American health and environment is substantial. It comes with the added benefit of modifying the National School Lunch Program and MyPlate (previously known as the food pyramid) and impacting millions of American diets, and millions of square miles of American farmland as well.

Industry shouldn’t drive our country’s dietary priorities, however, if it flies in the face of what we already know regarding what’s good for the planet and good for the American people.

There is no question that a plant-based diet is key to sustainability and our survival.

On the production front, for example, we know that a unit of beef protein contributes 150 times more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than a unit of soy protein. That’s a whopper of a difference. Pork and chicken also have a heavy carbon footprint but are only 20 to 25 times heavier in GHGs than soy. Additionally, cows, and their methane, are responsible for 65 percent of livestock emissions, more than any other species, and beef production requires nearly 30 times more grazing land than chicken or pork production.

Going further, when you consider organic farming versus conventional methods, the gains are even more pronounced as organic agriculture captures significantly more carbon than non-organic and industrial-scale farming, which is often much more water and resource intensive.  Organic farming’s health and environmental benefits, by avoiding pesticides, herbicides, hormones and genetic engineering, are also clear.

But it’s not just the environment that benefits from this and an immediate implementation of the committee’s dietary recommendations. Our health benefits as well. We need to shift away from diets featuring a heavy intake of meats (along with refined sugars and fats and oils), all of which is expected to increase agricultural emissions by 80 percent by 2050. By doing what’s sustainable for the planet, we also help prevent diabetes, heart disease, colorectal, ovarian and breast cancer, obesity, high blood pressure, and other diseases that lower life expectancy.

The good news is that we can do all of this without costing consumers more. By reducing animal products, we’re cutting out the middle person, which in this case is the cow, pig or chicken, and we’re going directly to the source: plants. We increase agricultural efficiency and effectiveness and ultimately feed more people. A Dutch study predicts that roughly 10.4 million square miles of grazing land would be immediately available, as well as 386,000 square miles of land that is currently growing crops for livestock.

As our population continues to grow (the U.S. has one of the fastest population growth rates in the developed world), we must think creatively and courageously about more sustainable diets. We simple do not have sufficient energy and water resources for a diet heavy in animal protein. The science committee points another path forward for HHS and USDA, and it’s one we must adopt soon. Do it for the health of this country. Do it for the American people. Do it for the heartland.

Shank is a professor at George Mason University’s School for Conflict Analysis and Resolution and writes in his personal capacity.