Curcumin Very Helpful For Those With Resistance to Chemotherapy, Tamoxifen

Photo courtesy of and Tacluda

Photo courtesy of and Tacluda

Curcumin Very Helpful For Those With Resistance To Chemotherapy, Tamoxifen

According to, approximately 70% of breast cancers are estrogen receptor positive (ER+) at diagnosis.  These patients are often recommended to have endocrine therapies that target estrogen receptors, such as the drug Tamoxifen.

Tamoxifen works by binding to tissues that use estrogen. This binding blocks the action of estrogen in the breast but mimics the action of estrogen in the bones and uterus.  Tamoxifen is used to treat ER+ breast cancer in men and women and to prevent breast cancer in those at high risk.

Some People Are Resistant

Some people, however, are resistant to anti-estrogenic drugs like Tamoxifen, and also to certain chemotherapy drugs.  See my article about chemoresistance, Chemo-Resistant Breast Cancers In The News.  This has proven to be a huge problem for some patients.

According to development of resistance is a process that “appears to result from upregulation of growth factor and protein kinase signaling pathways that provide an alternate mechanism in support of tumor cell proliferation and survival.”  So researchers are keen to identify or target the factors that come into play with endocrine resistance.

Some progressive oncologists are utilizing the chemosensitivity test for their patients who are resistant to certain chemo drugs.  See my article If You Are Contemplating Chemotherapy, You Should Know About the Chemosensitivity Test.

Curcumin To The Rescue

The good news is that a new Chinese study, published in January 2013 in Molecules, indicates that curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, has been shown to be effective in helping to restore Tamoxifen sensitivity and also sensitizes cancer cells to chemotherapy, thus making the chemotherapy more effective.  The researchers “discovered that curcumin treatment displayed anti-proliferative and pro-apoptotic activities” and that the “findings suggested that curcumin alone and combinations of curcumin with endocrine therapy may be of therapeutic benefit for endocrine-resistant breast cancer.  Click this link to read the Chinese study.

You can get curcumin in capsules in health food stores, you can also use turmeric in your cooking. has a big list of recipes that utilize turmeric.  It’s a gorgeous spice and adds depth and flavor to your curries, as well as other dishes.  I recommend turmeric in my page Diet and Cancer (scroll all the way to the bottom).


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More Information on Chemosensitivity Testing

Ampule and syringe.

Photo courtesy of stock.xchng

Further to my post of August 14, 2012 about chemosensitivity testing, I found a company that does chemosensitivity testing here in the USA.

The name of the company is Rational Therapeutics.  On July 13, 2011, Dr Robert Nagourney wrote an article titled “Why I Do Chemosensitivity Testing“.

Because chemotherapy is so toxic, it makes sense that prior to undergoing a barrage of chemotherapy drugs, you find out which ones will be more effective against your particular cancer (because everybody is different) and chemosensitivity testing does this.

What impressed me about Rational Therapeutics was that they seem to use techniques which other laboratories do not use.

According to their website: “At Rational Therapeutics, we do not grow, subculture or propagate cells in the lab. Tumor cells are kept in clusters (microspheroids) that mimic the body’s environment. By examining cells in their native state, we take a snapshot of their behavior in response to drugs and combinations of drugs. These microspheroids reflect the complex elements of the body’s cellular environment, which has proven critical for the accurate prediction of clinical response.

“This is a significant advance over earlier methods where tumor cells were isolated and grown in the lab. These types of tests do not accurately reflect tumor response to drug treatments within the body.

“We adhere to three absolute principles of accurate assay analysis:

  1. Measure cell death, not the inhibition of growth.
  2. Never grow cells. We do not grow, propagate or subculture cells. We maintain them in their native state.
  3. Preserve the ecology of cancer biology by preserving cell-to-cell interaction.  We maintain stromal, vascular and inflammatory cells that contribute to drug response.”

If your oncologist doesn’t know about chemosensitivity testing, it might be worthwhile having him check out Rational Therapeutics, 750 E. 29th Street, Long Beach, CA 90806, 562.989.6455, 800.542.HELP (4357).

I receive no kick-back or payment of any kind from this company, I just like to keep my readers informed of companies that are doing good work on behalf of cancer patients.  This kind of targeted therapy makes a lot of sense to me.

I send my love to everyone taking this journey right now. If you would like my help with getting through breast cancer in an inspiring and ultra-healthy way, please sign up for my free e-newsletters on the right, or “like” me on Facebook ( and I’ll do my utmost to keep you informed and empowered on your healing journey… and beyond.  

If You Are Contemplating Chemotherapy, You Should Know About the Chemosensitivity Test

chemo drugsHere in America, if you are contemplating chemotherapy, you may or may not be offered the chemosensitivity test.

In Germany, chemosensitivity tests are routinely conducted in order to determine which chemotherapy drugs should be utilized for a specific cancer patient.

Because some tumors may resist certain chemotherapy treatments, some oncologists are choosing to test tumor cells in advance of treatment rather than prescribe a standard chemotherapy combination without knowing whether it would be effective for your particular tumor.

Tailor-Made Treatment

The tests, called chemotherapy sensitivity and resistance assays (CSRAs) are relatively new  and are carried out for many types of cancer.

The CSRA is a laboratory test that is done on a single cell in a test tube (in vitro) or on a clump of tumor cells (in vivo), usually taken from a biopsy tissue sample.  The test assesses how many cancer cells are killed by a particular drug, or by a combination of drugs, and how many cancer cells are unaffected by the treatment.

When your oncologist examines these test results, he/she can then treat you more effectively, knowing which chemo drugs your cells respond to.  Two more added benefits are that you don’t lose any time being blasted with drugs that don’t work for you and you don’t have to be debilitated by the side effects of drugs that won’t kill your cancer.

There Are 5 Qualifying Factors

As of writing this article, I am aware of 5 qualifying factors before you will be considered for a chemosensitivity test.

  1. You have to find an oncologist that will order the test
  2. You need to be strong enough to undergo chemotherapy
  3. You need to have access to a lab or facility that does the assay
  4. You must have a solid or fluid tumor
  5. You must be willing to undergo a new biopsy to get a fresh tissue sample for testing

Insurance Companies and Clinical Trial Results – Two More Problems

Not all insurance companies will cover the cost of the chemosensitivity test, which as close as I could tell runs around $800.  Aetna Insurance considers chemosensitivity assays “experimental and investigational because there is insufficient evidence that these assays influence management decisions such that clinical outcomes are improved.”  I guess Germany doesn’t count.

It appears that independent clinical trials are still underway here in America and because of that this test is not standard, and it will not be offered to every patient until doctors are convinced of its accuracy and value.

It’s Just My Opinion, But…

If the chemosensitivity test assists oncologists to tailor make a chemo regimen that is going to be the most effective for our specific cancer, why wouldn’t the insurance companies pay for this?  It could conceivably lead to less chemo treatments and a patient who is actually ALIVE at the end of the treatment regimen (as opposed to one who won’t be paying any more insurance premiums due to being 6 feet under!).

I think that if toxic chemotherapy is going to continue to be the standard of care (which many consider outdated and prehistoric) they need to step up the clinical trials and get these results back as quickly as they can so that ALL can be given these tests and ensure they have the best response rate to the chemotherapy drugs and the greatest chance at beating cancer.

Finally, take 7 minutes out of your busy day and watch this interesting You Tube video – Burton Goldberg interviews Professor Michael Geising, a German Molecular Oncologist from Munster, Germany.  Dr Geising advises “only 15-20% of chemotherapies are successful. The other 80% not only don’t work, but 60% of them actually make the cancer more aggressive by allowing it to develop resistance mechanisms.”

Research strongly suggests that when patients receive the most effective treatment, matched to their cancer profile, they survive longer.  Ask your oncologist about the chemosensitivity test.  In fact, insist on it.


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Chemo Resistant Breast Cancers in the News


Chemo Resistant Breast Cancers in the News

Photo courtesy of and Ambro

Chemo Resistant Breast Cancers In The News

One big problem of chemotherapy for breast cancer is that some people have chemo resistant tumors.

This is a major problem for some types of breast cancer and many patients undergo treatment that does not work, thus delaying other more suitable treatments and subjecting the patient to adverse side effects in the process.

New UK Research

Researchers at the University of Hull in the UK have discovered a family of proteins, called biomarkers (which are molecules that allow for the detection and isolation of a particular cell type), that are twice as prevalent in clinical samples obtained from breast cancer patients who were resistant to chemotherapy than those who were successfully treated.

Lead researcher at the University of Hull, Dr Lynn Cawkwell, says: “A major goal in cancer research is to be able to predict the response of a patient to chemotherapy. Unfortunately, a reliable test has not yet been developed to achieve this. We hope our work can help to bring us a step closer.” (Medical News Today, 4.14.12).

Dr Cawkwell is hopeful that by testing for certain proteins, doctors will be able to tell in advance a patient’s response to different chemotherapy agents, and be able to decide which course of treatment is most helpful for them.  Dr Cawkwell’s team is continuing with this study, as well as investigating radiotherapy resistance in a number of different cancers.

We all wish them well in their research.

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