|TURMERIC is a basic ingredient in most indian curries|
A spicy way has been found to kill cancer cells. Scientists have discovered that a substance found in turmeric, a basic curry ingredient, can kill cancer cells within 24 hours. Researchers at Ireland's Cork Cancer Research Centre who treated oesophageal cancer cells with curcumin, a chemical found in turmeric, observed that it triggers lethal death signals in the cells. The cells eventually digest themselves and die.
The results of the study were published in the British Journal of Cancer last week. Curcumin gives turmeric (curcuma zangais) its orangy-yellow colour. The rhizome, a close relative of the ginger, is commonly used in Asian cooking as well as in traditional medicine. Chinese and Ayurvedic medical practioners use turmeric as a treatment for many ailments as it has anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal properties and believed to lower cholesterol.
Dr Sharon McKenna led the study. She said medical researcher Dr Geraldine O’Sullivan-Coyne who had been looking for new ways of killing resistant oesophageal cancer cells tested curcumin on resistant cells. She found that they started to die using an unexpected system of cell messages. Normally, faulty cells die by committing programmed suicide – or apoptosis – which occurs when proteins called caspases are ‘switched on’ in cells. But these cells showed no evidence of suicide and the addition of a molecule that inhibits caspases and stops this ‘switch being flicked’, made no difference to the number of cells which died. This suggested that curcumin attacked cancer cells using an alternative cell signalling system.