Dallas Researchers Explore Effects of Curcumin on Cervical Cancer Growth

Clinical trial investigates anti-cancer properties in the active component of spice turmeric

A new clinical trial conducted by researchers at Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas investigates whether daily doses of turmeric can prevent women with abnormal cervical cells from developing cancer.

Curcumin, the active component of turmeric and main ingredient in Indian curry, has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic and Chinese medicine and widely studied for its anti-cancer potential. For this trial, 14 women with severe dysplasia—the most serious stage of pre-cancerous cell growth—will ingest 500 mg of curcumin in pill form twice a day for 12 weeks and be monitored for either cancer cell growth or regression of abnormal cells.

"Cervical cancer typically progresses from a precursor lesion known as dysplasia," said Carolyn Matthews, MD, a physician on the medical staff at Baylor Dallas who specializes in gynecologic oncology. Dr. Matthews is medical director of the Integrative Medicine Program at Baylor Charles A. Sammons Cancer Center at Dallas and the study's co-principal investigator. "Our hope with this pilot trial is that the curcumin, which is known to reduce inflammation as well as interact with some of the HPV viral proteins, may interfere with the dysplastic process and allow women to possibly avoid the surgery used to treat severe dysplasia."

More than 12,000 new cases of invasive cervical cancer will be diagnosed this year, according to the American Cancer Society. Cervical cancer develops slowly, typically from abnormal cells caused by infection with the human papillomavirus, and is often detected through pap smears at regular wellness exams.

For the duration of the clinical trial, participants will be closely monitored every six weeks to confirm that abnormal cells haven't progressed into cancer. If there is suspicion of progression, the participant will undergo a biopsy and procedure to remove any cancerous cells. If more than one participant progresses, the study will be terminated. Participants must be 21 years of age or older, have confirmed severe dysplasia and have no suspicion of cancer invasion.

Ajay Goel, PhD, director of Epigenetics, Cancer Prevention and Cancer Genomics at Baylor Scott & White Research Institute and Baylor Sammons Cancer Center and co-principal investigator, said curcumin is considered safe in high doses and has great disease-fighting potential. The insights from this study could lead to better preventive care and help thousands of women avoid surgery in the future, he said.

"In other countries, turmeric has long been used to treat everything from digestive issues to wounds and infections," Dr. Goel said. "When we can apply them, alternative treatments are cost-effective, less painful, and contribute to a superior quality of life."

For more information on the study, visit www.BaylorHealth.com/AdvancingMedicine.

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About Baylor Scott & White Health
As the largest not-for-profit health system in the state of Texas, Baylor Scott & White promotes the health and well-being of every individual, family and community it serves. It is committed to making quality care more accessible, convenient and affordable through its integrated delivery network, which includes the Baylor Scott & White Health Plan, Baylor Scott & White Research Institute, the Baylor Scott & White Quality Alliance and its leading digital health platform – MyBSWHealth. Through 51 hospitals and more than 1,100 access points, including flagship academic medical centers in Dallas, Fort Worth and Temple, the system offers the full continuum of care, from primary to award-winning specialty care. Founded as a Christian ministry of healing more than a century ago, Baylor Scott & White today serves more than three million Texans. For more information, visit: BSWHealth.com