Some of my favorite pharma news stories come when natural remedies are tested as potential disease cures in modern medical research labs. A recent example comes from a group of Thomas Jefferson University scientists who released results of a study on curcumin’s effect on prostate cancer tumors.
Curcumin is an ingredient of tumeric (a spice found in curry powder and some teas) that has been used for centuries as a natural supplement to treat inflammatory conditions and other diseases. The researchers at Jefferson think curcumin could work with other therapies to help block a male hormone that fuels prostate tumor growth.
This is not the first time curcumin has been made headlines as an element of modern oncology research — back in 2009 a study in the UK (at the Cork Cancer Research Centre) found encouraging results when testing curcumin for esophageal cancer, and a number of other research institutes have conducted similar studies over the years for cancers (including recent studies on head and neck cancers and on brain tumors) and other conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease.
Resveratrol was the last such substance to generate high interest from the medical community. The red wine ingredient caused a buzz back in 2008 when Sirtris Pharmaceuticals (later acquired by GlaxoSmithKline) found it to have potential applications in treating diabetes, cancer, and other ailments.
Some organizations such as the American Institute for Cancer Research believe strongly in researching a variety of natural substances for their potential disease fighting properties. A list of grants the institute has provided for studies in 2010 included tests on vitamin D, pomegranate, and green tea — as well as a curcumin study at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey (UMDNJ).
Like any other potential disease treatment, it will take years more to determine whether curcumin could really make a significant impact on cancer care, but at this point the research continues to show progress.