The research on curcumin treatment for mesothelioma looks promising, but more hard science is needed before doctors can incorporate it into their treatment plans.
That is the message from a new multi-center international review of studies on curcumin for mesothelioma.
Curcumin is a phytochemical that gives the spice turmeric its distinctive yellow color. Phytochemicals are compounds produced by plants. Different phytochemicals help plants fight disease or protect themselves from other threats.
The new review summarizes the research on curcumin treatment for mesothelioma. It suggests that this compound may one day be a standard part of treating this intractable cancer.
What Do We Know About Curcumin?
Practitioners of natural medicine have used the curcumin in turmeric to treat disease for hundreds of years. The National Cancer Institute classifies turmeric as one of the most promising cancer-fighting compounds and has funded research on it for decades.
In the body, curcumin reduces inflammation and acts as an antioxidant. Oxidation is one of the ways asbestos causes mesothelioma.
The iron in asbestos produces a glut of damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS). Curcumin treatment for mesothelioma may help mop these up. Studies show it may also help keep mesothelioma tumors from forming the blood vessels they need to grow.
In one study, asbestos-exposed mice lived longer and developed fewer tumors with curcumin injections into their abdomen. In another, mesothelioma cells exposed to curcumin were less able to migrate and spawn new tumors. Still another study showed curcumin made mesothelioma cells more sensitive to chemotherapy with cisplatin.
Unfortunately, most of the research on curcumin treatment for mesothelioma has only happened in lab animals or test tubes.
The Future of Curcumin Treatment for Mesothelioma
Scientists from several sites in Italy and Temple University in the US completed the new analysis on curcumin treatment for mesothelioma. The goal was to summarize the current research and identify next steps.
The analysis concludes that mesothelioma is “a growing health emergency”. The number of cases in the world is still climbing and there is still no cure.
Curcumin treatment for mesothelioma could have several advantages. The studies show curcumin is relatively safe, inexpensive, and easy to find. The next step toward curcumin treatment for mesothelioma is more human trials.
“Additional experimental work is necessary to better describe the molecular effects of curcumin on [mesothelioma] cells, to define the most suitable mixture of curcumin…and the most effective route of administration of the substance,” writes lead author Alfonso Baldi of the University of Campania.
Dr. Baldi and his colleagues are experimenting with electrical stimulation of mesothelioma cells to help them absorb more curcumin. Other researchers are looking for ways to use curcumin as part of a combination treatment.
“Hopefully, in the near future, it will be possible to include curcumin as a chemo-preventive agent or as a substance in combination with conventional chemotherapy in malignant mesothelioma,” the report concludes.
Baldi, A, et al, “Curcumin as an Anticancer Agent in Malignant Mesothelioma: A Review”, March 7, 2020, MDPI Open Access Journals, https://www.mdpi.com/1422-0067/21/5/1839/htm