The low incidence of colon cancer in Asians is due to the presence of curcumin, which is an active ingredient in turmeric

Cancer and cardiovascular diseases researcher from Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Kutala Vijay Kumar is a vocal supporter of turmeric (haldi in Hindi) and its myriad health related applications. Recently, a study, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), GOI, conducted by Dr. Vijay Kumar and his research team on turmeric and cancer cells was published in well known science journal PLOS One. In an interview to M. Sai Gopal, the researcher fields some questions on the link between turmeric and cancer.



Why turmeric?

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and since second millennium BC, it is widely used in Asian medicine, food and cosmetics. In fact, medicinal uses of turmeric are well documented in folk medicine, Ayurveda and traditional Chinese and oriental medicine. It’s a fact that curcumin is therapeutic and helps in treating respiratory conditions like asthma, liver disorders, anorexia, diabetic wounds etc. It is anti-septic, anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogenic and that’s why there is a lot of interest on turmeric.



Is there any clear link between turmeric and cancer causing cells?

Yes, there exists a clear link between cancer cells and turmeric. Research has proved that due to curcumin there is low incidence of colon cancer and neuro-degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s in Asians. Research has proved that curcumin can inhibit cancer causing cells or genes. The challenge now lies in delivering the right amount of curcumin to the cancer cells.

In our research, we have seen that curcumin can inhibit the triggering factors that cause cancer.



Is high dose of

turmeric toxic?

The most compelling and key rationale for researchers to keep sticking to turmeric in research is because it is extremely safe. Till now, no studies on either humans or animals have proved or discovered that turmeric is harmful. Even large doses of curcumin are not toxic for the human body. That’s the reason for its widespread appeal.



Can research in turmeric eventually lead to development of anti-cancer drugs?

I personally feel it is possible. Pharma giants spend billions of dollars and take a minimum of one decade to develop a single molecule into an established drug. With turmeric, however, there is no need of huge spending. Turmeric is a naturally occurring compound and could potentially cut down time taken to do research and develop a drug.



So what is stopping researchers to develop drugs based on turmeric?

The challenge faced by researchers is to deliver the exact amount of curcumin to the cancer cells. There are several methods developed to target cancer cells. In our five years of research at NIMS, we have managed to develop a procedure wherein we can deliver maximum amounts of curcumin to the cancer causing cells. This eventually causes suppression of cancer causing genes. The technology has the potential for treatment of various cancers.

Cancer and cardiovascular diseases researcher from Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences (NIMS), Kutala Vijay Kumar is a vocal supporter of turmeric (haldi in Hindi) and its myriad health related applications. Recently, a study, funded by the Department of Science and Technology (DST), GOI, conducted by Dr. Vijay Kumar and his research team on turmeric and cancer cells was published in well known science journal PLOS One. In an interview to M. Sai Gopal, the researcher fields some questions on the link between turmeric and cancer.

Why turmeric?

The active ingredient in turmeric is curcumin and since second millennium BC, it is widely used in Asian medicine, food and cosmetics. In fact, medicinal uses of turmeric are well documented in folk medicine, Ayurveda and traditional Chinese and oriental medicine. It’s a fact that curcumin is therapeutic and helps in treating respiratory conditions like asthma, liver disorders, anorexia, diabetic wounds etc. It is anti-septic, anti-oxidant and anti-carcinogenic and that’s why there is a lot of interest on turmeric.

Is there any clear link between turmeric and cancer causing cells?

Yes, there exists a clear link between cancer cells and turmeric. Research has proved that due to curcumin there is low incidence of colon cancer and neuro-degenerative disorders such as Parkinson’s in Asians. Research has proved that curcumin can inhibit cancer causing cells or genes. The challenge now lies in delivering the right amount of curcumin to the cancer cells.

In our research, we have seen that curcumin can inhibit the triggering factors that cause cancer.

Is high dose of

turmeric toxic?

The most compelling and key rationale for researchers to keep sticking to turmeric in research is because it is extremely safe. Till now, no studies on either humans or animals have proved or discovered that turmeric is harmful. Even large doses of curcumin are not toxic for the human body. That’s the reason for its widespread appeal.

Can research in turmeric eventually lead to development of anti-cancer drugs?

I personally feel it is possible. Pharma giants spend billions of dollars and take a minimum of one decade to develop a single molecule into an established drug. With turmeric, however, there is no need of huge spending. Turmeric is a naturally occurring compound and could potentially cut down time taken to do research and develop a drug.

So what is stopping researchers to develop drugs based on turmeric?

The challenge faced by researchers is to deliver the exact amount of curcumin to the cancer cells. There are several methods developed to target cancer cells. In our five years of research at NIMS, we have managed to develop a procedure wherein we can deliver maximum amounts of curcumin to the cancer causing cells. This eventually causes suppression of cancer causing genes. The technology has the potential for treatment of various cancers.

Kutala Vijay Kumar

hyderabaddesk@thehindu.co.in

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