Background: Curcumin is a natural product that is often explored by patients with cancer. Weight loss due to fat and muscle depletion is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer and is associated with worse outcomes. Studies of curcumin's effects on muscularity show conflicting results in animal models.
Methods and results: Retrospective matched 1:2 case-control study to evaluate the effects of curcumin on body composition (determined by computerized tomography) of 66 patients with advanced pancreatic cancer (22 treated,44 controls). Average age (SEM) was 63(1.8) years, 30/66(45%) women, median number of prior therapies was 2, median (IQR) time from advanced pancreatic cancer diagnosis to baseline image was 7(2-13.5) months (p>0.2, all variables). All patients lost weight (3.3% and 1.3%, treated vs. control, p=0.13). Treated patients lost more muscle (median [IQR] percent change -4.8[-9.1,-0.1] vs. -0.05%[-4.2, 2.6] in controls,p<0.001) and fat (median [IQR] percent change -6.8%[-15,-0.6] vs. -4.0%[-7.6, 1.3] in controls,p=0.04). Subcutaneous fat was more affected in the treated patients. Sarcopenic patients treated with curcumin(n=15) had survival of 169(115-223) days vs. 299(229-369) sarcopenic controls(p=0.024). No survival difference was found amongst non-sarcopenic patients.
Conclusions: Patients with advanced pancreatic cancer treated with curcumin showed significantly greater loss of subcutaneous fat and muscle than matched untreated controls.
Keywords: body composition; curcumin; inflammation; pancreatic neoplasms.