Curcumin from the spice Turmeric improved the response of FOLFOX chemotherapy in colorectal cancer patients as highlighted by a phase II clinical trial. The overall survival in patients taking FOLFOX in combination with Curcumin supplements was more than doubled when compared to the group only taking FOLFOX : a potential natural remedy for colorectal cancer. Including Curcumin as part of colorectal cancer patients’ diet while on FOLFOX treatment may be beneficial.
As we get older, the cumulative effect of all our life choices including diet, exercise, lifestyle, how we handle stress, sleep routines, and many others, interplay with our inherent genetic makeup and throw up a multitude of health related challenges that we need to confront. One such condition that surfaces more in older adults over 50 years of age is colorectal cancer, that affects the colon/large intestines. The scourge of a cancer diagnosis is a life-shattering event and one tries to do all that is possible in their realm to improve their chances of survival. One such thing that patients do is a change in their diet to eating more healthy, organic and plant-based foods (as a natural remedy for cancers including colorectal cancer); and taking random natural supplements found to have anti-cancer properties through their searches or referrals from family, friends or other patients. However, this random use of natural supplements without the knowledge of how it interacts with their ongoing cancer treatment in their specific cancer type can either help or hurt their cause, thus should be done with care and in consultation with their health care specialists.
Early signs of colorectal cancer include the sometimes routine symptoms of bowel irregularities that can be most often ignored. Presence of polyps in the colon or blood in the stool are also signs of this cancer. Most polyps in the colon when discovered could be non-cancerous, but some may turn out to be malignant. If diagnosed and treated early while the tumor is localized, it has a very good prognosis and a 5-year survival rate of 90% but if diagnosed when the tumor has spread to lymph nodes and other organs (metastatic), the survival rate can greatly vary between 14-71% (Seer Cancer Stat Facts: Colorectal Cancer, NCI, 2019).
Curcumin improves FOLFOX Chemotherapy response
Curcumin, a natural product extracted from the commonly used spice Turmeric has been investigated extensively for its anticancer properties. A recent clinical study of a phase IIa open-labeled randomized controlled trial done in patients with metastatic colorectal cancer (NCT01490996) compared the overall survival of patients receiving the combination chemotherapy called FOLFOX (folinic acid/5-FU/OXA) with the group receiving FOLFOX along with 2 grams of oral curcumin supplements/day (CUFOX). Addition of Curcumin to FOLFOX was found to be safe and tolerable for colorectal cancer patients and did not exacerbate the side-effects of the chemotherapy. In terms of response rates, the CUFOX group had a much better survival outcome with progression free survival being 120 days longer than FOLFOX group and overall survival being more than doubled in CUFOX with 502 days (over a year and a half) vs. only 200 days (less than a year) in the FOLFOX group (Howells LM et al, J Nutr, 2019).
In summary, Curcumin supplements or a diet/nutrition rich in Curcumin can improve the response of FOLFOX chemotherapy in colorectal cancer patients. Such studies despite the smaller sample sizes, are very helpful and encouraging in supporting the use of specific natural products with specific chemotherapy treatments. FOLFOX chemotherapy drugs work by causing DNA damage in the cancer cells and inducing cell death. Cancer cells use different escape pathways to dodge the chemo from causing it to perish. Curcumin with its multiple actions and targets can help reduce the resistance mechanisms of FOLFOX, thus improving the response rate and odds of survival for the cancer patient, without further adding to the toxicity burden. However, taking Curcumin or any other natural product along with the chemo should only be done based on scientific support and evidence in consultation with the physician.
Cancer patients often have to deal with different chemotherapy side effects which affect their quality of life and look out for alternative therapies for cancer. Taking the right nutrition and supplements based on scientific considerations (avoiding guesswork and random selection) is the best natural remedy for cancer and treatment related side-effects.