Centuries of anecdotal (and more recently, scientific) evidence shows that curcumin—a chemical found in the spice turmeric—is capable of protecting against multiple diseases, including cancer. When ingested, however, curcumin is not absorbed well by the digestive system, instead being mostly eliminated before it can be useful to the body.
Now scientists at Ohio State University have created synthetic compounds based on curcumin that, in the lab at least, kill cancer cells and stop cancer from spreading. The compounds have been tested in computer simulations and, in some cases, in human cells in the lab. The computer-based predictions indicate that the most effective compound developed so far by the Ohio State lab may be effective in up to 50 percent of all breast and prostate cancers. Some of the compounds also show potential to kill pancreatic cancer cells and inhibit cancer cell migration.
The team is planning to continue refining the compounds before advancing to animal studies to test their effectiveness. The scientists hope to develop a chemotherapeutic agent available in pill form.