Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Curcumin as a Natural Treatment for Lung Cancer: What Are the Facts?

Curcumin is a potential treatment for lung cancer that is not going to cost more than about $100 a month, and possibly a lot less. It is available over the counter, and there are doctors, especially at the Baylor Medical Center in Houston, Texas, who have experience in using curcumin for modest increases in stage IV lung cancer life expectancy--usually a few weeks to a few months.


I have to admit I'm not objective about natural treatments for lung cancer. My own mother, who did not smoke, died of lung cancer (that had begun as breast cancer) over nine horrible months in 1995.

She put her hopes in a then relatively new treatment called Taxol (paclitaxel). Nowadays it is made in the lab, but in 1995 it was still usually extracted from yew bark, requiring whole groves of yew trees to make a $100,000 dose. My mother got three. She seemed to perk up a little with the second one. Nonetheless she just knew that this treatment was going to save her life.

Six days before she died, however, my mother's oncologist told her she "wasn't worth" another treatment and the hospital-owned HMO was not going to pay for one. She cried and cried and cried, and then you could see how she gave up. It was like the life was just oozing away and you could see it.

The day before Thanksgiving the hospice people showed up in force, but they did things like fluffing pillows and doing her makeup. She passed away the early morning of Thanksgiving of 1995. So, like I said, I'm not objective on this topic.

But one thing I know for sure is that if I am going to write about any natural treatment for lung cancer is going to be about a treatment people can actually get. Curcumin is a potential treatment for lung cancer that is not going to cost more than about $100 a month, and possibly a lot less. It is available over the counter, and there are doctors, especially at the Baylor Medical Center in Houston, Texas, who have experience in using curcumin for modest increases in stage IV lung cancer life expectancy--usually a few weeks to a few months.

If you have stage IV cancer, and you are having a good day, a few weeks to a few months is a wonderful gift. So let's take a look at what the research is telling us about curcumin and lung cancer. Curcumin works extremely well for a subset of people who have lung cancer.

About 10 percent of cancer cases in the USA and up to 80 percent of cancer cases in some parts of China involve mutations in genes that control the activity of epidermal growth factor receptors, or EGFRs. These are "lock and key" sites on the surface of cells that receive hormones that stimulate multiplication of cancer cells.

Curcumin acts a little like jamming the wrong key in a lock so that other cell-stimulating hormones can't come in. This doesn't kill cancer cells. It just keeps them from multiplying. Maybe the immune system can find them and kill them, but at least they won't be multiplying and forming still more tumors. Curcumin does not cure cancer.

But it can slow progression from stage 3 to stage 4 by 300 percent to 400 percent and it usually extends life expectancy in stage four about 10 percent.  Altogether it might add a year or so to life, and some of those days will be probably be good days.

 Is curcumin for people who have lung cancer? Taking more than 10,000 mg of curcumin a day can cause constipation and acid reflux. If you are already on Vicodin or some other opium-like pain killer, you certainly don't need to take a dosage that can cause constipation.

No one in the two clinical trials involving curcumin and late-stage cancer treatment found any side effects from taking up to 3,500 mg a day, one study finding it was safe up to 8,000 mg a day. About 75% of ordinary curcumin never is absorbed into the body. It is eliminated in bowel movement.

Micronized (very finely ground) curcumin, however, is better absorbed, and piperine  (a black pepper extract) greatly reduces the rate at which the liver deactivates curcumin. Products that combine curcumin and "biopiperine" get the best results.

 Although your doctor can run tests that will tell whether you will respond well to curcumin, there is no do-it-yourself way to predict how your will respond. You might do really well. You might not. But at least the product is relatively safe and relatively inexpensive. I wish I knew about it many years ago.

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