Primary Component in Curry Spice Kicks Off Cancer-Killing Mechanisms in Human Saliva

Curcumin, the main component in the spice turmeric used in curry, suppresses a cell signaling pathway that drives the growth of head and neck cancer, according to a pilot study using human saliva by researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The inhibition of the cell signaling pathway also correlated with reduced expression of a number of pro-inflammatory cytokines, or signaling molecules, in the saliva that promote cancer growth, said Dr. Marilene Wang, a professor of head and neck surgery, senior author of the study and a Jonsson Cancer Center researcher.

"This study shows that curcumin can work in the mouths of patients with head and neck malignancies and reduce activities that promote cancer growth," Wang said. "And it not only affected the cancer by inhibiting a critical cell signaling pathway, it also affected the saliva itself by reducing pro-inflammatory cytokines within the saliva."

The study appears Sept. 15 in Clinical Cancer Research, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Association of Cancer Research.

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Spoon of turmeric powder with fresh turmeric root. (Credit: © Monkey Business / Fotolia)

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