Recently I wrote about the potential of curcumin as potential treatment for pancreatic cancer. This antioxidant component of turmeric, the colorful spice used in curry powder, seems to be useful in stopping the growth of many different kinds of cancer cell lines.
In 2006 Arjuna Labs in India figured out a way to combine the essential oil of the spice with the antioxidant component in a capsule for maximum absorption. Their product is on the market in the US, Canada, Australia, and some Europrean countries now. The countries that have the lowest rates of pancreatic cancer, however, are the countries in Asia where people consume not just turmeric but also soy.
The curcumin in turmeric and the isoflavones in soy both have an inhibitory effect on a protein called NF-κB. This protein migrates into the nucleus of the cell where it activates genes that are involved in resistance to apoptosis (resistance to cell-suicide of the cancer-cell, which is triggered by other "watchdog" genes), angiogenesis (growth of a blood supply to the tumor), invasion of surrounding healthy tissues, and metastasis throughout the body.
When cancer cells in a test tube are treated with a combination of curcumin and soy isoflavones, there is also an inhibitory effect on the Notch-1 signalling pathway. The Notch-1 pathway enables cancer cells to evade the self-destruction sequences programmed by cancer-fighting genes. Curcumin or soy isoflavones used individually do not have this effect.
Laboratory studies cannot prove that the combination of these two herb chemicals would actually treat cancer in living human beings. In a living person, the herbs would have to be taken by mouth, digested (or not) in the stomach, absorbed from the small intestine, processed by the liver, and circulated to the pancreas after they pass through many other parts of the body. Even if the herb chemicals survived this process, and there is good evidence that they do, that doesn't mean that cancer patients could give up chemo and just rely on herbs.
This laboratory work does, however, confirm that the results of epidemiological studies in Asia that find that curry and soy eaters are less likely to develop pancreatic cancer probably has a scientific explanation. In the meantime, if you want to prevent pancreatic cancer, consider adding these two common foods to your diet.
The science for this article may be found here.
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