Washington | An ingredient found in turmeric, which is present in spicy curry dishes, may play an important role in treating colon cancer, researchers including one of Indian-origin have found in a new study.
The combination of two plant compounds that have medicinal properties – curcumin and silymarin – holds promise in treating colon cancer, researchers from Saint Louis University in the US said. Curcumin is the active ingredient in the spice turmeric, which is present in spicy curry dishes, and silymarin is a component of milk thistle, which has been used to treat liver disease, they said.
Researchers studied a line of colon cancer cells in a laboratory model. They found treating the cells initially with curcumin, then with silymarin was more effective in fighting cancer than treating the cells with either phytochemical alone. The combination of phytochemicals inhibited colon cancer cells from multiplying and spreading.
In addition, when the colon cancer cells were pre-exposed to curcumin and then treated with silymarin, the cells underwent a high amount of cell death, said Uthayashanker Ezekiel from Saint Louis University.
Phytochemicals may offer alternate therapeutic approaches to cancer treatments and avoid toxicity problems and side effects that chemotherapy can cause, he said. Ezekiel saw promise in using the phytochemicals to help prevent colon cancer, which frequently is caused by lifestyle factors, such as diet.
Concentrations of curcumin and silymarin that are too high could be harmful to people. We still have much to learn, and for now, it is so much safer to add a little spice to your diet and get your curcumin from foods that contain turmeric, such as curry, rather than taking high doses of the compound, he said.
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