Curcumin may help prevent triple negative breast cancer

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By David Liu, PHD

Tuesday Oct 02, 2012 (foodconsumer.org) -- A new laboratory study in Molecular Medical Reports suggests that using curcumin as a spice or a dietary supplement often may help prevent triple negative breast cancer, which is an aggressive type of breast tumor.

S.D. Sun by Zhejiang Provincial People's Hospital in Hangzhou, Zhejiang and colleagues conducted the study and found curcumin increases apoptosis - programmed cell deaths which are lacking in cancer cells and decreases expression of genes associated with proliferation of triple negative breast cancer.

Curcumin is the major ingredient of the spice turmeric that is commonly used in curry, a very important seasoning in Indian cuisine.   The spice ingredient has been found able to inhibit cancer cell proliferation in early studies, according to the study report.

Triple negative breast cancer does not express the genes for estrogen receptor (ER), progesterone receptor (PR) or Her2/neu.   This type of tumor behaves differently from hormone receptor positive breast cancers in that it is more often than a hormone receptor positive tumor to have a relapse within 3 to 5 years of diagnosis/treatment.

For the study, researchers treated the MDA-MB-231 TNBC cells with curcumin and then measured the growth inhibition ratio of the cells, apoptosis activity, the expression levels of extracellular regulated protein kinase (ERK1/2), pERK1/2, EGFR and pEGFR.

Curcumin treatment at a dose of 30 umol/mL significantly inhibited growth of the MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells, compared to those untreated with this dietary supplement.  The treatment also increased the level of apoptosis from 2.76% in the control group to 26.34 % in the study  group.  Additionally, the treatment decreased the expression levels of pERK1/2 and pEGFR, which are markers of breast cancer cell proliferation.

The researchers concluded "These results indicate that curcumin is able to inhibit the proliferation of TNBC (triple negative breast cancer) cells. Inhibition of the EGFR signaling pathway is the likely underlying molecular mechanism."

Triple negative breast cancer accounts for about 15 to 25 percent of all breast canecr cases. Younger African American and Hispanic women are more likely to develop this disease and black women are more likely to die from the disease than women in other ethnical groups.

One epidemiological study found women using oral contraceptives for more than one year were 2.5 times as likely as those who did not use or use them for less than one year to develop triple negative breast cancer.

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