Effects of Curcumin on Tumor Growth and Muscle Mass in a Mouse Model of Cancer Cachexia

Donna McCarthy Beckett

Katrina Pycha

Thomas Berg

ONF 2008, 35(3), 455-459. DOI: 10.1188/08.ONF.455-459

Purpose/Objectives: To determine whether a diet containing 1% curcumin, a highly colored botanical food containing compounds that suppress expression of proinflammatory mediators implicated in the pathobiology of tumor-induced muscle wasting, would preserve muscle mass in two animal models of cancer cachexia.

Design: Four-group experimental design.

Setting: A health sciences animal care unit in the midwestern United States.

Sample: 60 female C57Bl/6 mice.

Methods: Mice were subcutaneously inoculated with Lewis lung carcinoma or B16 melanoma tumor cells. Curcumin was mixed into ground standard rodent food. The animals were fed the standard food or food with 1% curcumin for 17 days. Body weight and food intake were monitored and hind limb muscles, spleen, and tumor mass were weighed on day 17. Data were analyzed using two-way (tumor, diet) analysis of variance.

Main Research Variables: Body weight; plantaris, soleus, and gastrocnemius muscles relative to body weight; spleen; and tumor.

Findings: Food intake was not affected by 1% curcumin in the food. Tumor growth caused significant wasting of skeletal muscles in both animal models. Curcumin did not reduce splenomegaly or preserve body weight or muscle mass in either model, but curcumin did significantly reduced tumor mass in mice with B16 melanoma.

Conclusions: Curcumin may not be beneficial in the treatment of cancer cachexia; however, controlled clinical trials of curcumin in patients with cancer are warranted based on evidence of its antitumor effects in animal models.

Implications for Nursing: Patients frequently self-prescribe complementary and alternative substances after diagnosis and during cancer therapy. Answers to patients' questions about purported effects of these substances must include research findings when possible.

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