When it comes to mainstream attempts at curing cancer, progress has been slow, at best. Sure, we’ve made some strides here and there—take genomic testing or immunotherapy, for example. As it stands, though, the slash, poison, and burn approach is somehow still considered the “gold standard.”
But hopefully not for long.
Because there’s a new field of cancer research that has cracked open in recent years. And not only is it exposing the fatal flaws in our current treatments…but it’s offering an alternative that promises to be safer and more effective than any cancer drug we’ve seen to date.
It all starts with stem cells…
You’re likely familiar with stem cells already. And if so, you know that their unique ability to create is what makes them so special. These are the “master cells” that give rise to every type of cell in your body.
Stem cells drive healing and regeneration, playing a key role in both injury repair and cell turnover. Every organ has its own set, each with varying levels of activity. But age slows your stem cells down, eventually leading to chronic disease—which is exactly why so much research is now devoted to them. Scientists are searching for ways to “remobilize” these critical cells.
Stem cell innovations can open up some exciting new doors in the ongoing battle against disease. But as with most things, they also have a dark side.
We now know, for example, that cancer itself has stem cells. In fact, scientists theorize that they may actually be the root cause of cancer—resulting from DNA mutations in normal stem cells, and going on to generate more abnormal, tumor-forming cells.
Among these cancerous cells, cancer stem cells are unique in that they replicate themselves in order to maintain the cancer—just as normal stem cells do for healthy tissue. And while their populations are smaller in comparison to ordinary cancer cells—making up as little as one percent of a tumor’s mass—cancer stem cells are ultimately responsible for directing the course of the disease.
Conquer cancer at its root, and your immune system will do the rest
This last point is particularly important. Because researchers think cancer stem cells may be the main factor behind treatment resistant cancers.
Traditional therapies like chemo and radiation target and eliminate ordinary cancer cells. But even if they completely obliterate a tumor, if the cancer stem cells aren’t rooted out as well, the tumor will just grow back, like a lethal weed.
Cancer stem cells can hide away pockets of cancer cells that evade detection and treatment. And then they can make those cells spring back to life, even after all evidence of the disease appears to have been eliminated.
On the other hand, if a treatment were to target these stem cells alone, we could destroy cancer at the root. This would leave the rest of the cancer cells vulnerable to attacks by the body’s own immune system.
It’s the future of cancer treatment we’ve all been waiting for—one that’s targeted, leaves healthy cells intact, and comes with a minimum of side effects because of it.
Unfortunately, scientists have hit some hurdles. Immune therapies based on this premise have come up short. And despite promising early results, new treatments have ultimately resulted in disappointment.
But there is one natural compound that may be the breakthrough that finally sets this new era of cancer treatment into motion. And it’s been hiding in plain sight for centuries.
The ancient compound that kills “bulletproof” cancer cells
I’m talking about curcumin. This is the active compound in turmeric—the spice that gives curry its distinctive flavor and bright yellow color.
I’ve mentioned curcumin many times here before—it even earned a place on my most recent “Desert Island” supplement list. So you might recall that it’s a widely recognized antioxidant and anti-inflammatory powerhouse, with a long list of benefits against an even longer list of chronic conditions.
Diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, ulcers, depression, even Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s—research supports curcumin as a natural therapy for all of these conditions. But its unique ability to target and eliminate cancer stem cells may be its most impressive claim to fame yet.
In fact, research shows that curcumin can transform “bulletproof” cancer stem cells into ordinary cancer cells… making them easier targets for both conventional cancer therapies and your own immune system to kill.1
Lab results indicate that curcumin works via multiple critical pathways to induce cancer stem cell death, prevent metastasis, halt the growth of existing tumors, and supercharge chemotherapy’s effectiveness—even against treatment-resistant cancers.
In fact, one in-vitro study of lung cancer cells showed that after pretreatment with curcumin, a single exposure to the chemo drug cisplatin wiped out half of the cancer stem cells. In stark contrast, nearly 95 percent of stem cells survived treatment with cisplatin alone.2
Even the notoriously failure-prone colon cancer drug 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) appears to be more effective when combined with curcumin. A study published in the journal Carcinogenesis revealed that curcumin was able to reduce resistance to 5-FU by 30 percent.3
Curcumin extends survival even in the most serious cases
Actual human trials using curcumin have delivered similarly exciting results—despite the obvious hurdles that surround this kind of research. Study populations remain limited to patients deemed “incurable,” and for whom any intervention outside of the norm is considered last resort.
Still, if curcumin can make a difference in these dire circumstances, it’s not hard to imagine what it may be able to accomplish for healthier patients with better prognoses.
For example, one very small study of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer—one of the most lethal forms of cancer there is—showed that median survival with curcumin was 5.4 months. And the one year survival rate neared 20 percent.
This may not sound too impressive. But bear in mind that the median survival for untreated pancreatic cancer is just 3.5 months—and a mere six months with conventional treatment. Not to mention the fact that animal studies show curcumin can boost chemotherapy effectiveness and reduce its toxic effects.4
Another small sample of 15 terminally ill, stage 4 colorectal cancer patients tells a similar story. This group took curcumin as a last ditch effort to extend survival. And for five of them, curcumin provided three to four additional months of life.5 That’s more than 200 percent longer than some chemotherapy drugs—and without the same gut-wrenching side effects.
Curcumin even shows promise against triple-negative breast cancer. This is the most treatment-resistant and aggressive form of the disease. Yet researchers in China and Taiwan have found evidence that curcumin can effectively kill these cells, by itself and in combination with common chemotherapy drugs like doxorubicin.6-7
When you’re buying curcumin, always go “brand name”
Thrilling as all of these recent discoveries are, there are a few key caveats. Chief among them being that not just any form of curcumin will offer results. Cooking with turmeric is great—but it doesn’t deliver nearly enough of the active compounds needed to pack a significant punch against cancer stem cells.
Neither does your average curcumin supplement, for that matter.
That’s because curcumin has poor bioavailability. (That is, your body simply can’t absorb it easily on its own.) To make up for this fact, some studies have used dosages as high as 8 grams—which, while safe, can seriously irritate your gastrointestinal system.
Luckily, nutraceutical technology has come a long way. Now, there are several potent, bioavailable forms of curcumin on the market, including:
- Meriva®, a patented time-release curcumin extract. It is a “phytosome” form of curcumin that’s paired with fat—a combination that’s much easier to absorb. One 2011 study suggests Meriva is absorbed 29 times better than plain old curcumin.8 In an in vitro study, Meriva was shown to overcome chemo-resistance in colon cancer cells, making the chemo drug oxaliplatin more effective.9
- Curcumin C3 Complex®, another high-absorption form of the nutrient that uses nanoparticles. It is currently being used in several clinical trials at MD Anderson Cancer Center, and in a study in Britain on inoperable colon cancer in combination with a chemo regimen known as FOLFOX.9
- BCM-95®, a bioavailable form that also includes components of turmeric oil. Studies by the manufacturer show that it can be detected in the bloodstream within one hour—and sustain active levels for more than eight hours.10 One study suggests BCM-95 is nearly seven times more bioavailable than regular curcumin. It’s been used in studies of colorectal cancer to overcome chemo-resistance, and tested in combination with other nutrients against prostate and bladder cancers.
- Theracurmin®, a “nano” formulated, water-dispersible extract. It has been studied alone and in combination with chemotherapy for pancreatic, bladder, and prostate cancer, among others.11-12 And manufacturer research suggests it’s 27 times more absorbable than regular curcumin.
These forms of curcumin are “branded” extracts. And as I’ve explained before, I generally prefer these kinds of products, because I find they typically have a whole lot of quality research behind them. (Not to mention the fact that you’ll actually be getting what you pay for.)
As a general guideline, 500 mg of a bioavailable curcumin extract is a great place to start for overall health and cancer prevention. But the therapeutic doses during active cancer treatment will be higher. Some research suggests 1,000 to 3,000 mg daily in divided doses, depending on the disease stage.
But your best bet is to work with an experienced integrative practitioner to include curcumin in your specific treatment plan. Because if this emerging science is any indication, you have nothing to lose… and more importantly, precious time to gain.