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Popular Spice may Hold Hope for Mesothelioma Patients

Turmeric is a plant, but it is better known as a spice. It is commonly used in curry, and has a bitter taste and a rich yellowish red color. In addition to being known for its flavor, turmeric has long been used to make a variety of medications. Its uses are largely touted for its anti-inflammatory effects, and people have sung the praises of the spice for the treatment of arthritis, heartburn, fibromyalgia and jaundice among other illnesses for generations. Now researchers are investing whether a component of the popular spice may actually be beneficial in the treatment of mesothelioma.

Researchers from the University of Vermont report having tested curcumin, a polyphenol that is one of the primary components of turmeric to see whether they had an impact on mesothelioma cancer cells. Mesothelioma is a rare and always fatal form of cancer that attacks the lung’s pleural lining as well as the lining of the pericardium and peritoneal cavity. The illness is not responsive to traditional cancer treatments, in large part because it is not diagnosed until it is far advanced.

Because curcumin has been found to help fight a variety of different types of cancers, the Vermont researchers tested it on both human mesothelioma cell lines and laboratory animal mesothelioma cell lines. They found that the polyphenol had a dual effect.

The first action that the researchers noticed was that a large number of the mesothelioma cells died from pyroptosis, essentially killed by inflammation. Pyroptosis happens in the presence of caspase-1, an enzyme. In a separate test the researchers showed that inhibiting the enzyme protected the curcumin-exposed cells from pyroptosis. Additionally the researchers noted that the curcumin provided an inhibiting effect against inflammation which encourages the mesothelioma cells’ continued growth and development. The researchers summed up their results by stating, “Our data indicates that curcumin has a double effect on malignant mesothelioma cells through induction of pyroptosis while subsequently protecting against inflammation.”

This is not the first time that researchers have looked into the effects of curcumin on mesothelioma. Previous testing has shown that it can cause the cells to deteriorate and die; it may also slow down its growth. Another study showed that the spice may enhance the effectiveness of the popular mesothelioma drug cisiplatin.

Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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