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Last Updated: Monday, 8 August 2005, 13:47 GMT 14:47 UK
Curry spice may help cancer fight
Turmeric is a spice used in many Indian dishes
A spice used in curry may help prevent people from developing cancer of the gullet, researchers in Swansea believe.

Some patients at Morriston Hospital in the city at risk from oesophageal cancer will be given curcumin tablets.

It follows laboratory trials at Swansea University that showed the compound found in turmeric blocked a protein that helped the disease develop.

Scientists have long suspected some elements of Indian food may act as anti-cancer agents.

People in India have much lower incidence rates of certain gastro-intestinal (GI) tract cancers than other pats of the world, suggesting that diets rich in spices such as turmeric may prevent some cancers.

What we are hypothesising is if curcumin is effective there may be a way preventing people developing oesophageal cancer
Dr Gareth Jenkins

During the past 18 months researchers at Swansea University's Institute of Life Science have been testing the effects of curcumin on cultured cancer cells.

Data showed it inhibited the activity of NF-kappaB, a protein linked to several cancers of the GI tract.

The study has been led by Professor John Baxter and Dr Gareth Jenkins.

Ali Alhamdani, one of the surgeons at Morriston Hospital involved in the study
Doctors in Swansea will involve around 50 patients in the study

Dr Jenkins said: "In India they have lower rates of certain cancers and it has always been assumed there was something in the Indian diet that is protecting them.

"Research all over the world has been looking at different Indian spices for quite some time."

Improve treatment

He explained some patients who attended Morriston Hospital for observation after being identified as being at high risk of developing cancer of the gullet would be given curcumin supplements.

"We are taking the research one step further by asking some patients to take curcumin tablets," he said.

"What we are hypothesising is if curcumin is effective in blocking NF-kappaB there may be a way preventing people developing oesophageal cancer."

Around 40 to 50 people will take part in the two-year pilot study.

Dr Jenkins stressed that even if the tablets proved successful in blocking the cancer promoting protein there were many other factors at work.

"Whether it will have a dramatic effect on them is yet to be proved," he said.

But he added it was hoped that in the foreseeable future with more information treatment for the prevention of GI tract cancers would be improved.

"These sorts of cancers are on the increase in the UK and the western world," he said.

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