Spice derivative could prove useful in feline cancer therapy

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Aug 30, 2009
By dvm360.com staff
Fort Collins, Colo. -- Could your kitchen hold the cure to feline cancer? Possibly.

A simple compound derived from a spice found in many kitchens may have the ability to stop cancer cells from growing in cats, researchers say. Curcumin, a compound in turmeric, appears to stop the growth of cancer in laboratory cell tests.

Turmeric is an herb related to ginger that is often used in Indian cuisine, such as curries, in canned beverages, baked products, dairy products and home-canned products such as pickles. It also is used for its mustard color in condiments and as a dye.

While researchers know that curcumin has anti-cancer properties, it is metabolized through the liver in most animals and humans in a way that renders it ineffective against cancer cells in the body. However, oncologists at Colorado State University’s Animal Cancer Center are conducting laboratory tests on cancer cells to determine if a therapeutic level of the spice can be identified for felines.

“Dogs, humans and other mammals have a liver that is very effective at metabolizing many compounds, but cats don’t metabolize certain drugs as well because they have a unique liver,” said Dr. Doug Thamm, a veterinary oncologist who is leading the project.

“The unique feline liver means that some drugs that are not toxic to dogs or humans may be toxic to cats. In this case, dog and human liver enzymes turn off the beneficial effects of curcumin against cancer, but because feline livers function differently, the benefits may not be completely lost.”