A spice found in curry, called turmeric spice, is suggested to have real potential for the treatment and prevention of prostate cancer. Researchers have found that the spice is particularly effective when combined with certain vegetables.
The study tested turmeric combined with phenethyl isothiocyanate (PEITC), the naturally occurring substance abundant in particular vegetables including watercress, cabbage, winter cress, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, kohlrabi and turnips. “The bottom line is that PEITC and turmeric, alone or in combination, demonstrate significant cancer-preventive qualities in laboratory mice, and the combination of PEITC and turmeric could be effective in treating established prostate cancers,” said Ah-Ng Tony Kong, a professor of pharmaceutics at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey.
Prostate cancer affects millions of men in the United States, with a half-million new cases of the condition diagnosed each year. Despite the efforts of prostate cancer awareness and the resources devoted to treatment, the incidence and mortality of the disease have not decreased. Scientists believe this is because advanced prostate cancer cells are not very responsive to even high concentrations of chemotherapeutic agents or radiotherapy.
On the other hand, the researchers of the study from Rutgers point out the very low incidence of prostate cancer in India. Experts believe this is because of the high consumption of plant-based foods rich in phytochemicals, which are non-nutritive plant chemicals that have protective or disease-preventive properties. These foods are common in the Indian diet.
Studies have emerged in order to investigate the effects of intervention options based on compounds found in edible and medicinal plants. The published results show some success, and urologists and dieticians alike are recommending a change in diet to include many of these substances. The recommendations are in combination with conventional therapies as alternative, supplementary or complementary medications.
Specific to Kong’s study at Rutgers, PEITC and turmeric (also known as curcumin) were studied. Mice were bred in such a way so that their immune systems would not reject foreign biological material. Then the mice were injected with cells from human prostate cancer cell lines to grow tumors against which the compounds could be tested.
“Despite convincing data from laboratory cell cultures, we knew little about how PEITC and curcumin would perform in live animals, especially on prostate cancer,” explained Kong. “So we undertook this study to evaluate how effective PEITC and curcumin might be—individually and in combination—to prevent and possible treat prostate cancer.”
The researcher injected the mice with curcumin or PEITC, alone or in combination, three times a week for four weeks, beginning a day before the introduction of the prostate cancer cells. The results were astonishing. The growth of the cancerous tumors was significantly retarded in those mice that had been injected with curcumin. And using PEITC and curcumin together produced even stronger effects. Further, the results showed that using curcumin and PETIC in tandem significantly reduced tumor growth in already established tumors, leading the researchers to conclude that the substances had promising therapeutic potential.