The study, which appears in the August issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology, examined five patients with familial adenomatous polyposis (FAP) -- a hereditary disorder that causes the development of hundreds of colorectal polyps and eventually colon cancer. The condition is usually treated with nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDs, which frequently cause serious side effects such as gastrointestinal ulcers and bleeding.
The researchers gave each of the five FAP patients 480 mg of curcumin (from curry) and 20 mg of quercetin (from onions) daily for six months. By the end of the study, the average number of polyps in the patients had dropped by 60 percent, and the average size of each polyp had dropped 51 percent. One patient had not complied with the study supplement use, and researchers found that his number of polyps increased, but decreased once he re-started the supplements.
"This study showed for the first time that curcumin was efficacious in decreasing the number of polyps in patients with FAP, similarly to what has been seen with the use of synthetic NSAID agents, but with minimal side effects," says the study's lead author, Marcia Cruz-Correa.
The amount of curcumin administered to each patient was far beyond what could be attained just by eating curry, though the amount of quercetin given could be ingested simply by including onions in a regular diet. The researchers suggest using curcumin supplements to get the necessary amounts needed to be effective for cancer treatment.
Researchers say a larger, double-blind placebo study is needed to verify the study's results before either supplement could be used to treat cancer.