Research Papers:

The effects of curcumin (diferuloylmethane) on body composition of patients with advanced pancreatic cancer

Henrique A. Parsons _, Vickie E. Baracos, David S. Hong, James Abbruzzese, Eduardo Bruera and Razelle Kurzrock

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Oncotarget. 2016; 7:20293-20304. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.7773

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Henrique A. Parsons1, Vickie E. Baracos2, David S. Hong3, James Abbruzzese4, Eduardo Bruera5, Razelle Kurzrock6

1Department of Medicine/Division of Palliative Care, University of Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

2Department of Oncology/Division of Palliative Care Medicine, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

3Department of Investigational Cancer Therapeutics (A Phase I Clinical Trials Program), The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

4Department of Medicine/Division of Oncology Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina, USA

5Department of Palliative Care and Rehabilitation Medicine, The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA

6Division of Hematology & Oncology and Center for Personalized Cancer Therapy, Moores Cancer Center, University of California San Diego, San Diego, California, USA

Correspondence to:

Henrique A. Parsons, e-mail: [email protected]

Keywords: pancreatic neoplasms, curcumin, body composition, inflammation

Received: November 05, 2015    Accepted: January 28, 2016    Published: February 27, 2016


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.

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