Relationship and interactions of curcumin with radiation therapy

World J Clin Oncol. 2016 Jun 10;7(3):275-83. doi: 10.5306/wjco.v7.i3.275.


Curcumin is widely reported to have remarkable medicinal - and antineoplastic - properties. This review details curcumin's relationship with radiotherapy (RT), principally as a radiosensitizer for various malignancies and a radioprotector for normal tissues. First, examples of radiosensitization are provided for various cancers: Pediatric, lymphoma, sarcoma, prostate, gynecologic, pancreas, liver, colorectal, breast, lung, head/neck, and glioma. It is not the purpose of this article to comprehensively review all radiosensitization data; however, high-quality studies are discussed in relationship to currently-controversial RT questions for many cancers, and thus the importance of developing a natural radiosensitizer. Attention is then shifted to radioprotection, for which supporting research is discussed for the following RT toxicities: Dermatitis, pneumonitis, cataractogenesis, neurocognition, myelosuppression, secondary malignancies, and mucositis/enteritis. Though there is fewer data for radioprotection, the overall quality of clinical evidence is higher, and small clinical trials implicating the efficacy of curcumin for RT toxicities (vs placebo/current therapies) are also detailed. Though the overall level of evidence for curcumin as a radiosensitizer and radioprotector is low, it must be recognized that risks of adverse effects are exceedingly low, and clinicians may need to judge the yet-unproven rewards with low toxicity risks.

Keywords: Cancer; Curcumin; Radiation therapy; Radioprotection; Radiosensitization; Turmeric.

Publication types

  • Review