Compass Futures: How Turmeric Could Combat Stomach Cancer


Brazilian researchers from the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP) and the Federal University of Para (UFPA) have recently explored the properties of a chemical compound called curcumin. They determined that curcumin could help treat stomach cancer. In Brazil, stomach cancer is a particularly common variety of cancer in both females and males, making their research extremely critical. They first published their findings in February of this year in the medical journal Epigenomics. As of April, this information also began to receive coverage in press releases.

The Curcuma longa plant, native to India, produces this dark yellow powder known as curcumin. It is used as a spice in many dishes, and it is commonly known as “turmeric.” It is notable for having anti-inflammatory properties and for disrupting cell signaling. Thus, it is a good agent for inhibiting cancer cell proliferation in tumors and it is currently involved in at least six clinical trials related to cancer.


To understand the way curcumin is related to stomach cancer, it is important to know that histones are proteins found in chromatin, the material that structures DNA. A process called histone acetylation alters how tight the chromatin is condensed. When the chromatin is less condensed (acetylated), the DNA is able to express its information. One of the researchers from the Brazilian team, Dr. Marilia A.C. Smith, had previously researched histone acetylation in cells of patients with stomach cancer. She found that certain histones were acetylatedin their stomach cells, meaning that they were looser and allowed for their genes to be expressed. This gene expression contributed to the cells becoming cancerous.

Accordingly, the researchers wanted to study how to regulate those histones. “We undertook a vast review of the scientific literature on all nutrients and bioactive compounds with the potential to prevent or treat stomach cancer and found that curcumin is one of them," said Dr. Danielle Q. Calcagno, the lead scientist on the team.

The researchers found that curcumin inhibits the histones and makes the cancer cells undergo apoptosis, where they essentially kill themselves. This discovery has the potential to pave the way for new stomach cancer treatments. The researchers also found some other compounds that could similarly regulate histones, including some also found in common household foods, such as grapes, wine, broccoli, onions, and apples.


According to BBC, a report to be released by a panel studying climate change will draw a close link between soil degradation and climate change. Unless the rate at which soil is damaged around the world is reduced, climate scientists believe it would be impossible to halt climate change.

The panel, known as the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, or IPBES, studies the benefits of nature to humans. The organization plans to release the report to the public on Monday, May 6. The body is meeting this week with the aim of getting governments from around the world on the same page in regards to climate change.

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The BBC’s environmental analyst Roger Harrabin explains how soil degradation can impact the climate in two different ways. First, it compromises the growth of plants taking in carbon from the atmosphere. Second, it releases soil carbon previously stored by worms taking leaf matter underground. He also notes that there is three times more carbon in the soil than in the atmosphere, which is being released into the atmosphere by deforestation and poor farming methods.

IPBES chair Bob Watson explained how, for far too long, governments have viewed climate change and soil degradation as mutually exclusive issues: "Governments have focused on climate change far more than they have focused on loss of biodiversity or land degradation. All three are equally important to human wellbeing." Watson was previously the chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).


Soil expert and Cranfield University Professor Jane Rickson added:f "Only 3% of the planet's surface is suitable for arable production and 75 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost to land degradation every year." She said soils form at a rate of one centimeter every 300 years.

Although the extent of global soil degradation is unclear, researchers have pinned down geographical hotspots from around the world. Soil erosion is particularly high in South America, sub-Saharan Africa, India, and China, and could have considerable effects on food production in these regions.