San Diego, CA – Curcumin, the compound that gives curry powder its yellow/orange color, may inhibit the adverse effects of nicotine in patients with head and neck cancer who continue to smoke.
In a paper presented at the 2009 American Academy of Otolaryngology – Head and Neck Surgery Foundation (AAO-HNSF) Annual Meeting & OTO EXPO in San Diego, researchers examined the effects of curcumin on head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) growths. The study used an in vitro model of a variety of head and neck cancer cell lines. To mimic the clinical situation, HNSCC cells were pre-treated with curcumin and then nicotine was introduced. The results of the studies showed that the curcumin was able to block the nicotine from activating cancer causing cells.
Annually there are approximately 40,000 new cases of head and neck cancers and 13,000 deaths in the U.S. and 500,000 new cases worldwide. Recurrence of these cancers are high because many patients continue to smoke after successful treatment. Also, former smokers often use nicotine replacement therapy as an aid for successful tobacco cessation.
Although nicotine itself has not been shown to be carcinogenic, it has been shown to encourage the cancer-forming process. The researchers sought a safe, bioactive food compound that could be used not only as a chemopreventive agent but could also block the harmful effects of nicotine.
The results may help to discover additional therapies for cancer prevention and treatment.