Curcumin has been used in traditional Indian medicine for many centuries for its anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. There has been some promising research concerning curcumin as a safe therapeutic agent for many cancers, colorectal cancer being among them. This has been shown through research in cell cultures, animal models, and humans. At this time, it appears that curcumin's anti-carcinogenic properties are most likely due to its effects on multiple molecular targets, such as nuclear factor κ-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells (NF-κB) and activator protein 1 (AP-1). NF-κB and AP-1 are both major transcription factors that regulate inflammation and thus affect cell proliferation, differentiation and even apoptosis. Curcumin has also been shown to affect a variety of other key players involved in carcinogenesis, such as cyclooxygenase-2, matrix metallopeptidases 2 and 9 and tumor necrosis factor α induced vascular cell adhesion molecule, just to name a few. Although many molecular targets are involved, curcumin has been well tolerated in many studies: doses up to 8 g a day have been confirmed to be safe for humans. In this brief review, we will examine the current studies and literature and touch upon many molecular pathways affected by curcumin, and demonstrate the exciting possibility of curcumin as a chemopreventive agent for colorectal cancer.
Keywords: Anti-carcinogenic; Anti-inflammatory; Cancer; Chemopreventive; Colorectal cancer; Curcumin; Turmeric.