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Here’s How Curcumin Targets Achilles Heel of Lethal Cancers


There’s certainly no shortage of research indicating that curcumin, a powerful component of turmeric, has impressive anticancer properties. Now, as evidence continues to accumulate, a new study has discovered just how the antioxidant spice targets the Achilles heel of lethal cancers.

Scientists at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine, Zhejiang University and Peking University found part of the mechanism that underlies curcumin’s anticancer effects.

In experiments using biochemical tests, cancer cells in test tubes and cancerous mice, they discovered curcumin binds to and strongly suppresses an enzyme called dual-specificity tyrosine-regulated kinase 2 (DYRK2). Inhibition of DYRK2 reduces the activity of proteasomes, which are protein complexes that play a role in cancer development. This action decreases proliferation, resulting in fewer tumors and slower cancer growth. The study was published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Curcumin May Help with Aggressive Cancers

Some aggressive and hard-to-treat cancers, such as multiple myeloma and triple-negative breast cancer, are classified as “proteasome-addicted,” meaning they need proteasome complexes to survive. Researchers theorize this dependency could be the Achilles heel, or the critical vulnerable point, of such cancers.

While pharmaceutical proteasome inhibitors are on the market, they damage noncancerous cells, along with cancerous cells. Conversely, curcumin inhibits proteasome activity without the severe side effects of drug treatment. It also augments the cancer-fighting effects of proteasome inhibitors, making it possible for patients to take lower doses of the drugs. Research shows that treating multiple myeloma with a combination of curcumin and the proteasome inhibitor carfilzomib resulted in increased cancer cell death.

Curcumin Has Multiple Anti-Cancer Pathways

Although curcumin’s proteasome inhibition effect alone is impressive, it has a variety of other cancer-fighting pathways as well. The compound hinders the growth and development of new blood vessels that bring nourishment to tumors. It also switches off genes that support cancer formation and helps the immune system eradicate malignant cells. In addition, curcumin protects DNA from mutations that may lead to cancer and reduces the ability of cancer cells to metastasize.

Prior Research Shows Curcumin’s Anticancer Effects

Earlier studies testing curcumin’s effect on specific cancers show encouraging results. Below are some of the findings:

  • A 2018 study in the journal BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine found curcumin extract helped inhibit the growth of thyroid cancer.
  • a 2013 research paper in the Journal of Cellular Biochemistry showed curcumin induced the death of two types of brain tumor cells.
  • A 2012 investigation in the journal Carcinogenesis observed curcumin reduced prostate cancer metastasis.
  • A 2017 study in the American Journal of Translational Research indicated curcumin inhibited lung cancer.
  • A 2014 investigation in Cancer Prevention Research found curcumin helped prevent one of the earliest colon changes that leads to colon cancer.

Take Curcumin for Cancer Prevention

Taking a high quality curcumin supplement standardized to at least 95 percent curcuminoids would help reduce your risk of getting cancer. Yet it’s also advisable to include turmeric in the diet because research shows countries with a high consumption of the spice have lower cancer rates. Moreover, a 2016 study suggested including a teaspoon of turmeric in the diet daily caused a change in the expression of genes associated with cancer: the authors speculated that fats and oils in the diet increase the absorption of the spice.


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