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Can turmeric stop cancer cell growth?

New research investigates the effects of using turmeric as an alternative to traditional chemotherapy for bone cancer.

While most cancers primarily affect older adults, osteosarcomas, which are the most common type of bone cancer, mostly affects children and youths. Chemotherapy is a standard treatment for bone cancer because it is difficult to remove cancerous tumours from bone tissue through surgery.  Although chemotherapy is effective, it can have many harmful side effects.  Recent research is looking into alternate, less toxic, such as turmeric, a spice commonly used in cooking.  The active ingredient in turmeric, curcumin, has anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and bone-building properties.  A Washington State University study published in the journal ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces examined the effects of curcumin on bone cancer.

Curcumin is not easily used by the body when it is orally ingested, so researchers chose to increase the bioavailability of curcumin by encapsulating it in a liposome, or vesicle of fat molecules and putting that liposome into a calcium phosphate scaffold.  This scaffold was then used to form bone implants that were given to bone cancer patients.  Some of the patients also received standard bone implants without curcumin as a control group.

After 11 days, the curcumin-containing bone implants inhibited osteosarcoma cell growth by 96 percent in comparison to the untreated bone implants.  Additionally, curcumin-containing bone implants increased healthy bone cell growth.  Typically, traditional chemotherapy drugs are very strong and can potentially negatively affect the growth of new, healthy bones.

This study suggests that compounds found in turmeric could potentially be helpful in treating cancer.  More research is needed to determine whether this effect is causal and if curcumin is as effective as traditional chemotherapy drugs.  For now, we cannot simply assume that turmeric stops cancer cell growth, and cancer patients should be treated by their physicians on a case-by-case basis.  However, turmeric is a delicious and nutritious spice that can be added to food, as well as a possible exciting breakthrough in medicine.

Written by Avery Bisbee


Bone cancer. (2018, April 25). Retrieved June 25, 2019, from

Sarkar, N., & Bose, S. (2019). Liposome-Encapsulated Curcumin-Loaded 3D Printed Scaffold for Bone Tissue Engineering. ACS Applied Materials and Interfaces,11, 17184-17192. doi:10.1021/acsami.9b01218

Image by Steve Buissinne from Pixabay



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