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Curcumin in endometrial cancer

Effect of curcumin addition to standard treatment on tumour-induced inflammation in endometrial carcinoma.

Cancer types
Gynaecological cancer
Trial phase


ACF Funding

Why this trial

In Belgium, about 1 in 70 women are affected by uterine tumors, which can be split into two types: endometrial carcinoma and uterine sarcoma. Endometrial carcinoma shows signs of inflammation, with the release of certain molecules and the presence of immune cells in tumors.

It's believed that hormonal changes and genetic mutations in tumor cells create an environment that promotes inflammation and helps cancer grow. Despite current treatments like surgery, chemotherapy, and radiotherapy, patients with recurring endometrial carcinoma have a poor prognosis, with less than 10% surviving five years after diagnosis. This calls for urgent exploration of new treatment options.

Why this intervention

Curcumin, or diferuloylmethane, is the major constituent and the active component in the spice turmeric and is available as food supplement, not as a drug. Curcumin preparations have been used in various clinical trials in cancer or other diseases in doses up to 8 g daily without major side effects and is generally recognised as safe by the FDA.

Curcumin has shown direct effects on tumour cells as well as anti-inflammatory effects. Activity against all phases of cancer development – initiation, promotion, proliferation and metastasis – has been demonstrated in preclinical work. Curcumin has been explored by others in clinical trials both as a preventive and therapeutic agent with promising results.

Curcumin is a versatile molecule that interacts with various compounds involved in inflammation. Its anti-inflammatory properties include: (1) reducing the activity of several inflammatory enzymes, (2) blocking the secretion of inflammatory cytokines, and (3) suppressing inflammation-mediated PD-L1 expression.

Both in vitro cell culture experiments as well as in vivo experiments in mouse models have revealed that curcumin can sensitise tumour cells to other treatments, such as the cytocidal effects of radiation and different chemotherapeutic agents. This chemotherapy sensitisation phenomenon has been observed in several cancer types.

The potential use of curcumin as a therapeutic anti-cancer agent has been significantly hindered by its poor systemic availability. As a result, considerable efforts have been directed towards developing alternative formulations of curcumin to improve its bioavailability. One such optimized formulation is Meriva.

Trial design

This was a monocentric, prospective phase II trial to determine the capacity of curcumin to reduce inflammatory mediators and immunomodulatory cell types in endometrial carcinoma.

The food supplement containing curcumin, Meriva, was administered orally daily for 2 weeks before initiating standard treatment in patients with a recurrence of endometrial carcinoma and with no life-threatening metastases.

Blood levels of inflammatory mediators, immunomodulatory cell types, and various curcuminoids (including curcumin, demethoxycurcumin, and their conjugates) were regularly monitored during treatment. The aim was to evaluate curcumin's potential to reduce inflammation and its bioavailability. Additionally, the study assessed curcumin's toxicity and its impact on patients' quality of life.



Due to slow recruitment, the trial was closed after inclusion of 7 patients. Inflammatory markers and immune cells from both blood and tumour biopsies were analysed, as well as the availability of curcuminoids in the plasma and urine of the patients. The results were published in Frontiers of Nutrition.


Principal Investigator: PhD. Sandra Tuyaerts, Oncology Dept., Gynecologic Oncology Division, University Hospital Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Sponsor: University Hospital Leuven, Leuven, Belgium

Our role

Financial support
Protocol preparation
Scientific / Strategic input

Why we support this trial

Intervention has little or no commercial value

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Use in a population with high unmet needs

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ACF Funding

Questions about this trial?

The Anticancer Fund
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Tuyaerts, S., et al. (2019). A Phase 2 Study to Assess the Immunomodulatory Capacity of a Lecithin-based Delivery System of Curcumin in Endometrial Cancer. Front. Nutr. 5:138. doi: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00138

Author: Kristine Beckers (Trial Manager)

Last updated: March 2024.