Wolfgang Quitschke, PhD Uses Curcumin to Advance Knowledge of How Cancer Cells Interact with their Environment

In an article recently published in PLoS One, Wolfgang Quitschke, PhD described an in vitro method for slowing the rate of cancer cell division, for causing cancer cells to age more rapidly or for killing them by using various concentrations of curcumin, the active ingredient in the common household spice, turmeric. Dr. Quitschke is an Associate Professor in the department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at Stony Brook University. The article is titled Curcuminoid binding to embryonal carcinoma cells: reductive metabolism, induction of apoptosis, senescence and inhibition of cell proliferation.

For his study, Dr. Quitschke added solutions of curcumin in various concentrations to cell culture media in which embryonal carcinoma cells were growing. After a four to six days, cells continually exposed to the lowest concentrations (1-5 μM) showed reduced rates of cell division; those exposed to higher concentrations (6-7 μM)  showed signs of induced senescence (more rapid aging) and those exposed to even higher concentrations (8-10 μM) died as the result of apoptosis induced by the activation of caspases, the so-called executioner proteins responsible for programmed cell death.

Dr. Quitschke’s studies suggest that these biological processes are triggered by changes in the cells’ signal transduction pathways, which in their turn are affected by the rates at which curcumin binds to the cells’ receptor sites. The fact that the biological effects within the cell are related to the concentration of solubilized curcumin in the cell’s environment, makes solubilized curcumin a useful compound for studying how signal transduction pathways are activated in cells and may provide clues about how to slow or stop the spread of cancer, Alzheimer’s Disease, and other disorders in which harmful cells proliferate.