Anti-Cancer Mechanism of Curcumin Outlined Interview with:

Ulrich Pfeffer, PhD Head of the Functional Genomics lab IRCCS AOU San Martino - IST Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro Genova, Italy

Dr. Pfeffer

Ulrich Pfeffer, PhD
Head of the Functional Genomics lab

IRCCS AOU San Martino – IST Istituto Nazionale per la Ricerca sul Cancro
Genova, Italy What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Curcumin is well known as a dietary integrator and in alternative medicine. Many previous studies showed its anti-cancer and many other beneficial activities. We and others had shown that these activities rely on its ability to reduce inflammation, which is an important factor in cancer development. This activity had also been described in much detail. It appears that curcumin inhibits the master regulator of the inflammatory program, the so called Nuclear factor kappa B, NFκB.

In the present study, we asked whether Curcumin also affects tumor cell metabolism and if so, how. We show that curcumin inhibits a central enzyme of the cell metabolism, the ATP-Synthase, that stands at the end of the chain that burns sugar and produces energy. In tumor cells, this also leads to the production of reactive oxygen species, ROS, that kill the cancer cell. What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Well, curcumin is good for cancer prevention since it blocks inflammation and tumor cell metabolism. These two activities are likely to prevent cancer or at least to delay its development. Consider that delaying cancer development means years of healthy life while cancer therapy means life with cancer, which is not the same. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: Inhibition of the ATP-Synthase likely also occurs in healthy cells and we have to study these effects; curcumin appears to be a bona fide calorie restriction mimetic. In the present study we administered curcumin by intraperitoneal injections to avoid problems associated with the bioavailablity. In future studies we will assess whether oral intake can yield similar effects. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Nothing to disclose, we are working with pure curcumin, no derivates, no additives with commercial interest.

I would like to thank my young collaborators, especially Giovanna Bianchi and Silvia Ravera who are co-first authors on the paper.

And yes, taking curcuma is not a substitute for a healthy diet!

Thank you for your interest in our work! 


Carcinogenesis. 2018 May 31. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgy076. [Epub ahead of print]
Curcumin Induces a Fatal Energetic Impairment in Tumor Cells in Vitro and in Vivo by Inhibiting ATP-synthase Activity.
Bianchi G1, Ravera S2, Traverso C1, Amaro A3, Piaggio F3, Emionite L4, Bachetti T5, Pfeffer U3, Raffaghello L1.



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