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The idea that diet can maintain good health and fight disease is an old one. For centuries, physicians and parents alike have pushed certain foods to cure the body’s ills. Jewish mothers serve chicken soup to anyone with a cold, following the famous recommendation from the 12th century Hebrew physician Maimonides (who actually said it would cure asthma and leprosy). Chinese parents add ginger to their kids’ meals, and Mexican abuelas slip a little chili into the sopa.
When it comes to cancer and other serious illnesses, though, patients are cautioned about dietary claims that a certain food will cure or slow a disease. A visit with a nutritionist is a much better idea to ensure the diet is well-rounded and includes nutrients to strengthen weakened immune systems.
Derivative of a Popular Indian Spice May Slow Mesothelioma
But now, researchers in U.S. and German universities say curcumin, which comes from the spice turmeric, contains a peptide that slows the progression of mesothelioma. Asbestos exposure is the only known cause of mesothelioma. Mesothelioma attorney Joseph Belluck says that any medical breakthrough is important when it comes to cancer. Although we don’t have a cure for mesothelioma, we have new information studied by doctors, such as the study of turmeric.
Turmeric is used throughout Asia and is prominent in Indian food. At this point, though, evidence that consuming it will slow the disease is thin at best. But can it be restructured for this, perhaps in a future medication?
Mesothelioma and other cancers are often triggered by the protein and transcription factor STAT3, which sends messages to start and continue the cancer’s growth. PIAS3, a protein inhibitor, or peptide, is a very effective agent against STAT3. And, according to researchers, it is found in curcumin. “We must develop a curcumin analog that is absorbable by the human body,” Afshin Dowlati, MD, Professor of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Science Daily reports. “Currently, curcumin ingested as the spice turmeric has practically no absorption within the gut.”
High PIAS3 Tramples STAT3, Kills Mesothelioma Cells
Dowlati, who is the senior author of a report that will be published October 10 in Clinical Cancer Research, and colleagues at Georg-Speyer Haus in Frankfurt, Germany, looked at tissue samples from mesothelioma solid tumors removed from patients in different parts of the US. Each sample contained information about how long the patient lived with the disease and the type of mesothelioma.
Patients with low PIAS3 peptides had active STAT3 and were more likely to die sooner. But those with high PIAS3 levels were 44 percent more likely to live another year, “which is substantial,” Dowlati says in a Case Western press release.
The researchers conclude that curcumin and PIAS3 peptides raised PIAS3 levels, which lowered STAT3 activity and caused mesothelioma cells to die, a finding that can lead to clinical trials.
PIAS3 May Hold Clues to Mesothelioma Progression
The study also shows that PIAS3 may be a reliable indicator of mesothelioma progression. Mesothelioma tumors rarely progress the same way as other ones, making it hard to predict what twists and turns patients and physicians can anticipate.
“PIAS3 activation could become a therapeutic strategy,” Dowlati theorizes. “Our findings beg the question of what role [it] could play in limiting STAT3 activation in other cancers as well.”