New evidence, studied by researchers in the Department of Cancer Studies and Molecular Medicine, at the University of Leicester, reveals that curcumin, found in the curry ingredient turmeric, may significantly reduce side effects for bowel cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy and help them to be able to go through treatment longer.

Usually, patients suffering from bowel cancer are treated with FOLFOX, a combination of 3 chemotherapy medications. However, between 40 and 60 percent of bowel cancer patients do not benefit from this treatment, and those who do report painful side effects, including nerve pain and horrible tingling, can only do reduced chemotherapy cycles. Put simply, their chemotherapy treatments have to be stopped earlier.

A trial at the University of Leicester, England, will begin investigating the benefits of curcumin, in conjunction with chemotherapy medication. The researchers will recruit around 40 patients who have bowel cancer which has spread to their liver, 75% of whom will take the curcumin pills 7 days prior to starting FOLFOX, the normal chemotherapy treatment.

The goal is to determine whether or not curcumin is a safe addition to the treatment of bowel cancer which has already spread to other parts of the body.

Curcumin is the main curcuminoid of turmeric, a popular Indian spice. It is a member of the ginger family (Zingiberaceae)

Previous studies have supported the idea that curcumin strengthens chemotherapy’s ability to eliminate bowel cancer cells in the lab.

Every year, in the UK alone, around 40,000 people are diagnosed with bowel cancer.

Funding for this study is provided by the Royal College of Surgeons, Hope Against Cancer and the Bowel Disease Research Foundation.

Written By Christine Kearney