Curcumin Beats Chemo for Reducing Colon Cancer Stem Cells

So. There’s a new study comparing the effectiveness of curcumin to chemo drug 5-FU, on colorectal cancer cells.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in Turmeric, one of the top 4 anti-cancer spices that I consumed copious amounts of in 2004, and still consume copious amounts of today.

5-FU, perhaps the most ironically named of all chemo drugs (affectionately known as “5 Feet Under”), is used to treat anal, breast, colorectal, esophageal,  pancreatic, stomach and skin cancers (especially head and neck). 5-FU was first used in 1957 and is still one the most commonly prescribed cancer drugs today. If that doesn’t send up a red flag about the progress of cancer treatment, your flag pole is broken.

Repeat. One of the most commonly used chemo drugs is 60 years old. 

Communication between cancer cells and normal cells is a key factor in how cancer progresses. This “signaling” increases the survival, proliferation, and malignant behavior of tumor cells and their ability to resist chemotherapy drugs. In this study, researchers investigated the role of signaling between colon cancer cells and normal cells and how chemotherapy drugs and BCM-95 Curcumin affect that communication.

Additionally, the researchers examined the impact of the treatments on cancer stem cell markers. Cancer stem cells are responsible for developing resistance to chemotherapy and the recurrence of cancer after treatment.

The study used a 3D tumor culture, which more closely replicates how tumors act in the body than other conventional in vitro cell culture models. The culture was treated with either 5‑Fluorouracil (5-FU), which is a common chemotherapeutic agent used for colorectal cancer, BCM-95 Curcumin, or a combination of 5-FU and BCM-95 Curcumin.

Surprise! 5-FU makes cancer stem cells more aggressive

One startling finding of this study was that treatment with 5-FU actually promoted the growth of cancer stem cells.

According to Ajay Goel, Ph.D., one of the study’s authors,”Colorectal cancer is especially devastating because of its high recurrence rate. Cancer stem cells exist in very small numbers in a tumor and can hide from chemotherapy… They survive (treatment) and cause cancer to reoccur, sometimes years later. I believe cancer stem cells are the main reason why we can’t stop cancer.”

“Our recent studies on curcumin continue to reveal its unique potential as a therapeutic strategy in the fight against cancer,” continued Dr. Goel. “In this study, treatment with curcumin impeded cancer growth and proliferation by inhibiting signaling proteins and blocking tumor cell promotion. The beauty of curcumin is its ability to balance gene expression and positively influence anticancer pathways.”

Translation: Curcumin slows down and/or stops colon cancer growth and spread. It turns on cancer preventing genes and turns off cancer promoting genes. Friends, this is straight from a very influential and well respected cancer researcher. See his bio at the end of the post.

In the following graph from the study, the grey bars represent the number of cancer cells. The black bars represent the number of CD133 cancer stem cells. As you can see, 5-FU reduced the overall number of cancer cells  about 5% more than curcumin, however curcumin dramatically reduced the number of CD133 cancer stem cells whereas 5-FU actually caused the cancer stem cells to increase, compared to the untreated cancer cells in the two control groups.

Curcumin vs 5-FU

Friends, this graph perfectly demonstrates what is happening in the bodies of thousands of cancer patients. Chemo treatments will shrink the size of a tumor by 50% or more, and this is celebrated as a terrific progress. But meanwhile, the cancer stem cells (the real troublemakers) are multiplying. And soon after chemotherapy treatment is finished, more aggressive chemo-resistant tumors form in new parts of the body.

In this study, cancer growth was inhibited most when the curcumin was used as a pretreatment before chemotherapy. The addition of curcumin sensitized the cancer stem cells to chemotherapy treatment and reduced the amount of 5‑FU needed to inhibit cancer cell growth, but as you can see in the graph, the reduction in cancer stem cells by 5-FU with curcumin was only slightly better (a few percentage points more) than curcumin alone.

And remember, 5-FU was also found to make cancer stem cells more aggressive, which means the remaining 5-FU treated cancer stem cells could become a much more serious problem down the road when compared to the Curcumin treated stem cells.

It is important to note that the form of curcumin used in the study, BCM-95 Curcumin, has unique specifications, including high absorption and inclusion of turmeric essential oil, which is not found in standard curcumin. Therefore, these specific results may not apply to other forms of curcumin.

For those who want to take preventive measures, Dr. Goel recommends 500 milligrams to 1 gram of BCM-95 Curcumin and 250 to 500 milligrams of BosPure Boswelia (Frankincense) daily.

If you have cancer, he suggests doubling or tripling the dose. “It’s very safe,” he says. “Although I would advise patients to consult with their doctor, these botanicals are extremely safe.

The author of this study is Ajay Goel, Ph.D., Director of Epigenetics and Cancer Prevention at Baylor University Medical Center in Dallas, TX. He has spent more than 20 years researching cancer and has been the lead author or contributor to over 150 scientific articles published in peer reviewed international journals and several book chapters. He is currently researching the prevention of gastrointestinal cancers using integrative and alternative approaches, including botanical products. Two of the primary botanicals he is investigating are curcumin (from turmeric) and boswellia.

Dr. Goel is also a member of the American Association for Cancer Research and the American Gastroenterology Association and is on the international editorial boards of Gastroenterology, Clinical Cancer Research, PLoS One, Digestive Diseases and Sciences andWorld Journal of Gastrointestinal Oncology. He also performs peer-reviewing activities for almost 75 scientific journals, as well as serves on various grant funding committees of the National Institutes of Health. (He’s legit.)

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This Post Has 9 Comments

  1. Kevin

    Hi Chris –
    Thank you for the information! I have a couple questions:
    What is the optimal dosage of BCM-95 (or do we just follow the dosing on the label)? Is the dosing based on one’s weight? Or is it like carrot juice where you take as much as you want and your body knows how much it needs?
    Thank you again for all you do!

  2. Christin Hards

    Hi, I too am wondering how much curcumin they would recommend an individual take, given the study.

  3. Fred

    hello Chris,, so glad I found your site,,also a colon cancer survivor here but not with chemo nor radiation as doctors were wise enough to know that my heart would not support either without it killing me,, but following your diet regime now and 18 mos cancer free and feeling like a million bucks with cutting out nearly all meat,, and juicing every day,, btw, heart has improved another 10% since changing my eating habits and getting stronger every day,, ALSO,, thank you so much for the link to the movie “Bought””,, wow what an eye opener,, keep up the good work

  4. Jason

    Hi Chris,

    Just found your site and think it’s great. My father has prostate cancer that spread to his bones. He found out in January 2014. In January 2015, at the age of 73, he was still driving 2 and half hours a day to finish his 4th master’s degree, then he started on daily morphine and and Xtandi (chemo in a pill) and his health fell off a cliff.

    After a month of no progress, the Oncologist has given up and recommends Hospice come to the home. He was just told this past Thursday to say goodbye to everyone cause he could pass in three weeks to three months.

    Not expecting miracles at this stage, but we are putting Hospice on hold for at least a week cause I feel their mind is made up to drug him heavily, which has caused his dramatic fall off this past month. Just a day after stopping Xtandi, his appetite returned and color in his face. The pain has not stopped, but we’ve lessened the amount of pain killers. Now I want to start him on copious amounts of cancer-fighting food, juice and smoothies.

    Quick question about curcumin. Although, I know it’s known for colon cancer, I figure it can’t hurt. Can you take copious amounts of it in the Turmeric form in a pill like the one they sell at Costco at this link:

    Or do you need a specialized curcumin? Thanks in advance.

  5. Celeste

    Hi Chris, Dr. Goel does seem to have a lot of publications and experience in treating colorectal cancers. Just curious, if you had rectal cancer as a dx would you seek out his recommendations? I am so leery now of MDs that I don’t trust any of them and my dad was one who I loved and worked with in his office! I feel more at peace with plant based nutrition to treat my cancer but honestly after reading this article it makes me think that with this type of cancer maybe that is not enough. So, if you were in my shoes, would you trust Dr. Goel?

  6. Denise

    Hello! I was wondering if there is a difference between the BCM-95 Curcumin and the Bosmeric-Sr supplements?

  7. Todd Wright

    I was wondering what your thoughts were on “Pure Encapsulations Boswellia AKBA”?
    It says it contain 30% AKBA, where as Bospure contains 10% AKBA.

Comments are closed.