Study shows spice may help thyroid cancer patients

Researchers with the University of California, Los Angelos's Jonsson Cancer Center have found that curcumin, the major component in the spice turmeric, enhances chemotherapy's suppression of head and neck cancer cell growth, such as thyroid tumors, when combined with the drug cisplatin.

Turmeric is a naturally occurring spice widely used in South Asian and Middle Eastern cooking, which has long been known to have medicinal properties attributed to its anti-inflammatory effects. Previous studies have shown it can suppress the growth of certain cancers, according to Dr Marilene Wang, a professor of head and neck surgery, lead author of the study and a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher.

The study, conducted in cells in Petri dishes and then in mouse models, appears in the journal Molecular Cancer Therapeutics.

The team wanted to combine curcumin with the chemotherapeutic drug cisplatin, which is very toxic at the doses needed to fight head and neck cancers. They hoped that they might be able to lower the cisplatin dose and cause less organ damage.

The study found that curcumin suppressed head and neck cancer growth and did not have any side-effects.