Curcumin, an extract of root turmeric, could destroy chemotherapy-resistant cancer cells and help fight the disease.
This could improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and also help prevent the condition from returning.
Researchers at the University of Leicester in Britain have been using curcumin to target chemo-resistant cells.
The aim is to use the extract in colorectal tumour tissue, which kills far more than 600,000 people every year and is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in the western world, reports the Daily Mail.
Lead researcher Karen Brown, said: “Following treatment for cancer, small populations of cancer cells often remain which are responsible for disease returning. These cells appear to have different properties to the bulk of cells within a tumour, making them resistant to chemotherapy.”
“Previous laboratory research has shown that curcumin not only improves the effectiveness of chemotherapy but also reduce the number of chemo-resistant cells, which has implications in preventing the disease from returning.
“We hope that our work will lead to a better understanding of the mechanisms through which curcumin targets resistant cells in tumours. It should also help us identify those patient populations who are most likely to benefit from curcumin treatment in the future,” Brown added.
Turmeric, part of the ginger family, is best known as an orange/yellow powder used as a spice for curries but has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries.
Its potential use in Alzheimer’s, arthritis and other disorders is also being investigated around the world.
Fellow researcher Lynne Howells said money from Hope Against Cancer, which funds research fellowships at the university, had been key to furthering the research.