One of the nice things about the ClinicalTrials.gov website, (which I have discussed previously here: http://www.anticancer.org.uk/2011/08/searching-for-clinical-trials.html), is that it lets you set up RSS feeds based on yor own search criteria. It's through this mechanism that I've learned about a new clinical trial for cancer using curcumin. What's more, this new trial is based in the UK, which is welcome since most curcumin trials have been in the US and other countries.
As with many of the current trials of curcumin, this one uses it as an adjunct to conventional chemotherapy. Specifically this is a trial aimed at patients with inoperable colorectal liver metastases who will be commencing standard oxaliplatin-based (FOLFOX) chemotherapy, In addition to their normal chemotherapy, patients will be given oral curcumin tablets (curcumin C3 complex, to be exact). In the first phase of the trial the aim is to test the safety and tolerability of curcumin and FOLFOX, with doses of up to 4g per day of curcumin. In the second phase of the trial patients will be randomised and some will received FOLFOX and curcumin, and some will just have the standard FOLFOX treatment.
In many respects this trial is treading familiar ground - curcumin has been trialled as an adjunct to other chemotherapy treatments for other cancers. One example that springs to mind are the trials of curcumin and gemcitabine for advanced pancreatic cancer. In one such trial 4g doses of curcumin were tried, but patients found it hard to take the volume of tablets, in another trial patients took up to 8g of curcumin without problem.
While there's a lot of excitement about curcumin as a cancer treatment, it's fairly clear by now that it is not a viable therapy on its own as things stand. The future of curcumin as a cancer treatment lies in two directions. The first as a support to existing treatments - which is what this trial is looking at. Curcumin may blunt some of the side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy, may make these treatments work better and may reverse drug resistance in some tumours.
The other path for curcumin lies in new formulations. This is an area of intense activity at the moment. In some cases scientists are working to improve the bioavailability of curcumin through using liposomes or other technologies. These new formulations take curcumin and simply make it more available to the body, particularly to tumour cells. A different approach is to take curcumin as a starting point and to alter the chemical structure to create new drugs that are based on it. These new drugs are more potent than curcumin and the hope is that they will be more powerful anti-cancer agents.
Both these approaches have merit, but for now it's good to see that curcumin is being tried in trials now.
To find out more about this this trial take a look here: http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT01490996