Curcumin, a derivative of the spice turmeric, has come into the medical spotlight as a potential agent in treating mesothelioma. Recent in vitro and in vivo studies have investigated the turmeric-based compound’s ability to induce apoptosis, or programmed cell death. Curcumin has also been studied in conjunction with chemotherapy drugs to measure its affect on the impact of chemotherapeutic treatment.
Malignant mesothelioma, which develops in the linings of certain internal organs, frequently alters cell cycles and apoptosis pathways. This makes the cells very difficult to kill via chemotherapy or radiation therapy. As a result, strategies to make the cells more responsive to treatment are a major focus of research.
After observing biological and molecular responses by malignant cancer cells, researchers found that mesothelioma cells from laboratory mice and humans can be suppressed by exposure to the curcumin. Oral administration of curcumin was able to suppress cell growth in levels that were directly related to the dose of the compound.
Additionally, pretreatment with curcumin made cancer cells more responsive to cisplatin, a chemotherapeutic agent commonly used for the treatment of asbestos cancer. After apoptosis-inducing proteins are elevated by curcumin, cells are made more vulnerable to the effects of cisplatin.
The study was completed in 2011 by researchers at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Detroit, Michigan. The facility has partnered with Wayne State University’s Center for Occupational and Environmental Medicine to form the National Center for Vermiculite and Asbestos-Related Cancers.
The center is known for its involvement with groundbreaking clinical and laboratory research on mesothelioma and other asbestos-related diseases. Part of the facility’s mission statement is to provide a means for the rapid and large-scale testing of affected individuals and increase the scientific understanding of the diseases. Patients may also seek treatment at the Karmanos Cancer Institute.