Thursday, October 28, 2010

Could Curcumin Cure Pancreatic Cancer?

Curcumin, the best-known antioxidant found in the curry spice turmeric, is touted by natural health "experts" as a great way to prevent and possibly even treat various kinds of cancer, including pancreatic cancer. But if this is the case, and the antioxidant powers of curcumin have been known for decades, why isn't this plant chemical the standard of care?

Part of the answer is that this chemical component of curry powder is not very well absorbed through the intestines, although curcumin in colon cancer treatment is still useful because it does not have to pass through the intestinal wall. Less than 10 per cent of the dose taken by mouth actually finds its way into the hepatic portal vein, the liver, and bloodstream circulation. Doctors at the Rambam Health Care Campus in Haifa, Israel report that giving advanced pancreatic cancer patients a combination of the chemotherapy drug gemcitabine and curcumins extends life, slightly, but only in about 10 per cent of cases.

Of course, if you already have advanced cancer and you are taking chemotherapy, it's going to be hard to keep food or supplements down and it's going to be hard to get them into your system. (However, see Chinese Herbal Medicine for Pancreatic Cancer.) Maybe this turmeric chemical is really better used as a tool for prevention--and that's what the science shows.

Dr. Jeremy James Johnson of the University of Wisconsin School of Pharmacy and Dr. Hasan Mukhtar of the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine offer the opinion that there is "overwhelming evidence" that curcumin can kill cancer cells in a test tube in the laboratory. The curry chemical works against breast, cervical, colon, gastric, hepatic, leukemia, oral epithelial, ovarian, pancreatic, and prostate cell lines. And the problem with absorption may have been overcome by scientists led by researcher Benny Antony at Arjuna Natural Extracts in Alwaye, India.

The way to get curcumin into the bloodstream seems to be combine the antioxidant extract with the essential oil in a capsule. This kind of product seems to increase absorption to nearly 100 per cent, which is 9 to 15 times more than other supplements. If you are going to work with your doctor to take any kind of supplement as part of your cancer care, the very least you want from your supplements is to make sure they are absorbed!

This manufacturing process is only about four years old, so there has not been time for clinical testing. Turmeric and curcumin products are, however, extremely non-toxic even in doses of up to 8,000 mg a day, so it will be worth the effort to consult with your physician about using them to prevent or defeat pancreatic cancer. Take with meals or with fish oil or flaxseed oil capsules. Do not use this supplement if you have gallstones, gallbladder problems, or any kind of obstruction of the bile ducts.

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