IIT Madras research shows positive use of turmeric in cancer treatment

IIT Madras research shows positive use of turmeric in cancer treatment Source: Indian Institute of Technology, Madras
Team Careers360 | Jul 13, 2020 - 1:59 p.m. IST
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NEW DELHI: Indian Institute of Technology Madras, or IIT Madras, research has shown that an active principle from turmeric can enhance death of cancer cells.

The promising agent found by the researchers is a protein called ‘TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand’ (TRAIL), an official statement said on Monday.

The IIT Madras team chose curcumin, the yellow part of the common turmeric that is used in daily cooking, as a sensitizer of TRAIL-resistant cancer cells.

Its ability to selectively kill cancer cells has resulted in a number of preclinical studies being carried out all over the world, the statement added

Use of curcumin

Curcumin is a known potent anti-cancer agent because of its ability to inhibit carcinogenesis in various cancer cells.

Its function as a sensitizer to TRAIL has been shown in cases of prostate cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and malignant glioma.

The IIT Madras research showed that treating leukaemia cancer cells with curcumin sensitises the cells to TRAIL and results in more efficient cell death.

They performed studies using isolated leukaemia cells from cancer patients and found that non-toxic concentrations of curcumin can significantly increase the efficiency of TRAIL-induced cell death.

“Our findings clearly show that even small concentration[s] of curcumin could potentially enhance the sensitiveness of leukemic cells to TRAIL,” the researchers said in the statement.

Research team

The IIT Madras research was led by Rama Shanker Verma, Bhupat and Jyoti Mehta of the School of Biosciences under the department of biotechnology.

The researchers said in the statement that the “next round of research has been to find chemicals that can reverse resistance and increase sensitivity of cancer cells to TRAIL.”

The results of this work were recently published in the peer-reviewed journal Pharmacological Reports. The paper was co-authored by Sridevi Surapally, Madhumathi Jayaprakasam and Rama Shanker Verma.

Researchers cautious about results

The statement added that the researchers are, however, cautious in estimating the results as the reactions have been carried out with isolated cells outside the human body, ‘in a test tube’.

It is unclear if the same results can be obtained inside the body, the statement said. This doubt arises because curcumin is known to be poorly absorbed into the blood from the gut and its bioavailability for therapeutic purposes is generally poor.

But the researchers are hopeful that this difficulty will be circumvented soon.

“Compounds such as quercetin found in onions, green tea etc., and piperazine, found in black and green pepper, have been shown by a few researchers to enhance absorption of curcumin by the body,” Rama Shanker Verma added.

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