We have previously reported on curcumin, the principal active ingredient of turmeric, which has been claimed to have activity against a variety of conditions. Now scientists at Wayne State University have explored the activity of curcumin against cancer stem cells (CSCs).
Colorectal cancer is the third most common form of cancer and, despite aggressive surgical intervention and chemotherapy, almost 50% of patients develop recurrent disease. In epithelial cancers, including colorectal cancer, growing evidence supports the hypothesis that tumour initiation and maintenance is driven by CSCs. Consequently, it is believed that failure to eliminate the underlying CSC population is responsible for cancer recurrence following therapy.
Curcumin has already been shown to have efficacy against a number of tumours in both animal models and early clinical trials. This latest study explored the activity of curcumin on colon cancer derived CSCs, either alone or in combination with the current standard treatment, FOLFOX (5-fluorouracil (5-FU) plus oxaliplatin). In cell culture experiments the researchers demonstrated that FOLFOX treatment increased the percentage of CSCs, presumably due to CSC-sparing. Treatment of these FOLFOX-surviving cells with curcumin alone or in combination with FOLFOX resulted in a marked reduction in the CSC population.
The study, published in Translational Oncology, went on to examine the potential mechanisms for the observed effects. The authors suggest that curcumin may represent a viable adjunct to current chemotherapy of colorectal cancer that could reduce rates of recurrence.