Curcumin Curbs Cancer Treatment Side Effects

Cancer treatment of any kind can create a number of harmful side effects. For instance, one unfortunate side effect of radiation therapy to cancers of the head and neck is a condition known as mucositis. This painful inflammatory disorder can cause swelling, redness, and ulcers in the mouth, interfering with a patient’s ability to eat, and in extreme cases, causing death.

Researchers have found that one way to reduce oral mucositis during radiotherapy is with a specialized curcumin extract (BCM-95) from turmeric.

In this study, sixty-one patients received either 500 mg BCM-95 Curcumin three times daily or placebo throughout four weeks of radiation therapy for head and neck cancer.

The severity of mucositis symptoms measured in this study ranged along a scale from no complications (Grade 0) to severe (Grade 3). By week four, there were clear differences between the two groups as indicated by which one experienced the most severe symptoms. A majority of those in the curcumin group (73.3 percent) held the line at the least severe symptoms for all four weeks of the study.

Curcumin (BCM-95) Placebo
Grade 0: 6.7% Grade 0: 0%
Grade 1: 73.3% Grade 1: 19.3%
Grade 2: 20% Grade 2: 67.7%
Grade 3: 0% Grade 3: 12.9%

This research indicates the growing acceptance of botanical compounds being integrated into conventional practice, especially reputable extracts like the curcumin chosen for use here.

The curcumin administered in this clinical trial, BCM-95, is described as an enhanced bioavailability turmeric extract that combines both curcumin and turmeric essential oil. The synergy of the ingredients has been previously shown to boost bioavailability by 700 percent compared to standardized 95 percent curcumin extracts. In this study, it appears to have increased its effectiveness as well: the researchers concluded that the botanical “reduces the incidence and severity of radiation-induced mucositis, which can benefit patients undergoing radiation for head and neck cancer.” Additionally, there was no evidence that the use of this curcumin interfered with the efficacy of the radiation therapy.

The Study Abstract:

Arun P, Sagayaraj A, Azeem Mohiyuddin SM, Santosh D. Role of turmeric extract in minimising mucositis in patients receiving radiotherapy for head and neck squamous cell cancer: a randomised, placebo-controlled trial. J Laryngol Otol. 2020 Feb 7:1-6.

Objective: To determine the role of turmeric extract in reducing mucositis in patients undergoing radiotherapy for head and neck cancer.

Methods: Sixty-one patients who underwent radiotherapy were included in the study and randomised into groups A and B. Patients in group A received 500 mg of turmeric extract (BCM-95) thrice daily, while patients in group B received placebo until radiotherapy completion. All patients were assessed for oral mucositis on a weekly basis during treatment and two months post-treatment using the National Cancer Institute Common Terminology Criteria for Adverse Events and World Health Organization criteria.

Results: Both groups had a similar grade of mucositis in first two weeks of treatment. The severity of mucositis was progressive in the control group, with four patients developing grade 3 mucositis by week four. In group A, however, the majority of patients (73.3 per cent) had grade 1 mucositis after four weeks of treatment. The difference was statistically significant from the third week onwards (p < 0.001).

Conclusion: Turmeric extract reduces the incidence and severity of radiation-induced mucositis, which can benefit patients undergoing radiation for head and neck cancer.