Alternatives to conventional cancer treatments can extend the life of cancer patients and yet their use is limited in the medical community. Inspiring stories herald the great need for research into alternative cancer therapies.
James “Rhio” O’Connor survived for more than 7 years after his diagnosis with pleural mesothelioma – he was expected by his oncologist to live less than 1. Rather than accept his plight, Rhio used a regiment of dietary supplements and mind-body medicine that gave him an edge over his asbestos induced cancer (Cancer Monthly, Inc). The legacy of James “Rhio” O’Connor is one of bravery and is a powerful call for research on alternatives to conventional cancer therapies.
More information on James “Rhio” O’Connor and mesothelioma is available at www.survivingmesothelioma.com.
Global cancer statistics reveal a starting ground for investigation into alternative cancer treatments. A report from Tata Memorial Hospital shows that India has low incidence for many types of cancer (Notani, 2001). Of the 12 cancer types for which global incident rates are reported, India has low incident rates for 8. India is unique in that curry powder is a regular part of the diet for many Indians. A possible correlation exists that the ingredients in curry powder, when made a regular part of nutrition, may significantly reduce the risk of cancer. In addition, extracts from the ingredients of curry may be able to actively treat variety of cancers.
Although curry powder is often made from an astounding blend of 30 or more spices, cardamom, chiles, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg, red pepper, black pepper, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, saffron, tamarind and turmeric are the most common (Allrecipes.com). All of these common ingredients of curry powder are associated with compounds that have been shown to be anti-cancer agents.
In vitro investigation of aqueous extracts from black pepper and cardamom show anti-tumor potential. The extracts of these spices increase the cytotoxicity of natural killer cells and have potential in cancer prophylaxis and management (Majdalawieh & Carr, 2010).
Aqueous extracts from cinnamon promote apoptosis of cancer cells. Research studying melanoma in mouse models determined that cinnamon extract promotes cell death of cancer cells by inhibiting activity of the proteins NFkB and AP1 which are constitutively expressed in many types of cancers (Kwon, et al., 2010).
Cloves have also been found to contain compounds that combat cancer. Aqueous extracts administered orally to mice reduce the formation and incidence of skin papilloma. In the study, treated mice had lower incidence of papilloma. In addition, treated mice that did have papilloma had fewer tumors (Banjaree & Das, 2005).
Coriander seed can help with treating colon cancer. Research shows that coriander seed protects against the negative effects associated with altered lipid metabolism in colon cancer. The research used rats as a model (Chithra & Leelama, 2000).
Further, a study on cumin shows promise. Mice fed 5% cumin seed in their diet showed fewer of stomach tumors and lower incidence of cervical cancer. The study postulates that the antiumor effect could be because cumin aids in the metabolism of carcinogenic compounds (Gagandeep, Dhanalakshmi, Mendiz, Rao, & Kale, 2003).
Similar to cumin, fennel seed prevents cancer when part of the diet. Mice on a diet rich in fennel seed showed lower incidence of both skin and stomach tumors. Mice with cancer were noted to exhibit fewer tumors per mouse (Singh & Kale, 2008).
Research also shows the candidacy of fenugreek in fighting cancer. In vitro testing of fenugreek extract kills cancer cells but not normal cells. The report suggests that the result is at least in part because the extract induces cell death of cancer cells (Shabeer, et al., 2009).
Methanol extracts from Myristica fragrans kill leukemia cells. The extract induced apoptosis of Jurkat leukemia T cell line in vitro (Chirathaworn, Kongchaeronsuntorn, Dechdoungchan, Lowanitchapat, Sa-nguanmoo, & Y, 2007). M. fragrans is commonly known as nutmeg and the shell of the nutmeg seed is known as mace.
Red peppers have been shown to have great medicinal potential as well. Red chili peppers contain compounds that have been shown to have antitumor, pain relief, antioxidant, and weight loss properties (Luo, Peng, & Li, 2010).
A poppy seed diet also proves to be anti-carcinogenic. A study reports that mice with a diet high in poppy seeds had significantly lower incidence stomach tumors. The same report also states cumin and basil have a similar effect (Aruna & Sivaramakrishnan, 1992).
Alcohol based sesame flower extract prevented the growth of tumors. The sesame extract inhibited sarcomas and hepatomas in mice (Xu, Yang, Yang, Qi, Liu, & Yang, 2003).
Ethanol extract of Saffron has been studied in vitro. The extract induced apoptosis in two cancerous cell lines and the report highlights that saffron extract has potential for future use in cancer treatment and therapy (Tavakkol-Afshari, Brook, & Mousavi, 2008). In addition, crocetin a compound derived from saffron has been demonstrated to inhibit proliferation and reduce invasiveness of breast cancer cells (Chryssanthi, Dedes, Karamanos, Cordopatis, & Lamari, 2010).
Characterization of the compounds in tamarind fruit and seed prompted researchers to conclude that tamarind seed and pericarp could be a valuable as a cancer preventative. They also note that tamarind has a high antioxidant capacity (Sudjaroen, et al., 2005).
Finally, the spice tumeric contains a component known as curcumin which has been proven to be effective at killing cancerous cells. Curcumin selectively kills cancerous cells and not normal healthy cells by altering several metabolic pathways including mitochondrial and death receptor pathways (Ravindran, Prasad, & Aggarwal, 2009).
Every single common ingredient of curry powder has been indicated by research to be useful in the fight against cancer. Perhaps further research could lead to an antitumor dietary supplement for cancer patients. More optimistically, extracts from these spices could be used in combination to create a patentable pharmaceutical that can actively fight a variety of cancers.
Companies which develop pharmaceuticals and therapy methods for cancer treatment operate in a profit driven system. Profitability for these companies is inherently linked to the patentability and control of product. As a result, expensive and extensive research necessary for FDA approval of many alternative cancer treatments is not achieved because it is hard to patent and profit from a natural, easily attained product. A cancer treatment based on the extracts of curry ingredients would have the benefits of being both natural and complex enough to effectively patent. The possibility of profit provides a powerful incentive for research. Curry compound research could lead to FDA approval and increased public access to effective alternative cancer treatment.
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