Different types of anticancer compounds possess various modes of action extracted from plant sources such as Taxus brevifolia, Catharanthus roseus, Betula alba, Cephalotaxus species, Erythroxylum previllei, Curcuma longa, and many more. Curcumin is the essential plant source that shows efficacy in cancer treatment among all these plant sources. In fact, t is the component of rhizomes of Curcuma longa L. (turmeric), extracted from the turmeric plant. Therefore, curcumin and its derivatives have gained more attention in the past decades regarding their biofunctional properties such as anti-tumour, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activities.
Curcuminoids are bioactive ingredients of the spice turmeric derived from the rhizomes of Curcuma longa L. (Zingiberaceae). Curcumin with a chemical structure constituting bis-α,β-unsaturated b-diketone; diferuloylmethane is the principal curcuminoid. It mainly includes around 2–5% of total turmeric content and, more often, 70%–75% of total curcuminoids of the plant.
Figure 1: Curcuminoid chemical structure
These are bioactive polyphenolics in nature, showing significant health benefits against different disorders 1. The various pharmacological activities in these compounds are due to the ability of this molecule to interact with multiple biological targets and signalling pathways 2. Hence, this evidence depicts its potency towards anticancer effects.
Curcumin in cancer treatment
Although there is an integrated global awareness and implementation of different therapeutic options for cancer prevention, many still consider cancer to be the primary cause of increasing death rates across the globe. Doctors characterize the cancer cells by disrupting several signaling pathways involving the ones responsible for angiogenesis, proliferation, metabolism, migration, immune modulation and also survival 3.
The use of curcumin has shown efficacy in affecting the growth of cancer cells in different ways resulting in the prevention of cancer development. Anticancer effects of curcumin are reported against several different types of cancer, including prostate cancer, breast cancer, colorectal cancer, pancreatic cancer, and head and neck cancer, both in vitro and in vivo. Also, its efficacy and safety among cancer patients have been studied by representing the anticancer activity through different mechanisms that interfere with various cellular pathways while inhibiting the production of multiple types of hormones, enzymes and related growth factors.
Curcumin has represented the anticancer properties by increasing the level of vitamin C and E in order to suppress the peroxidation of lipids and prevent DNA damage. In fact, curcuminoids are known for avoiding tumor formation and enhancing tumor size reduction. They also inhibit cancerous cells and metastasis of tumors by producing anti-angiogenic effects that result in apoptosis and interfere with the cell proliferation cycle 4.
Curcumin beyond cancer treatment
Curcumin is known as one of the most active ingredients in turmeric and hence is used by researchers in determining its different benefits in certain conditions on its own. In fact, curcumin’s anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties have supported wound healing conditions through its antibacterial effects. It is effective in reducing the blood sugar level in type 2 diabetes, along with depicting its use in lower inflammatory markers such as tumor necrosis factor (TNF) and interleukin 6 (IL-6); it is also considered the major contributor in treating type 2 diabetes 5. Also, the turmeric extracts enriched with curcumin-like curcuminoids effectively preserve the bone mass.
Turmeric has been a golden spice used in treating inflammation, bacterial infections and also digestive issues for several years. Researchers have revealed turmeric extraction with a high concentration of curcumin. It has shown efficacy in reducing joint inflammation, cholesterol, blood sugar, and tumor, fungal and bacterial growth.
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