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Pat's Place: Can Curcumin, Resveratrol, Or Other Nutritional Supplements Help Fight Multiple Myeloma?

13 Comments By
Published: Jan 6, 2011 10:48 am

I believe the supplements I take help keep my body healthy and strong. But I don't take any supplements considered to have anti-myeloma properties.  Not that there are many of these.

Bioperine, a derivative of black pepper, is thought to help increase the absorption of nutritional supplements.  Used in combination with other anti-myeloma supplements, it may enhance anti-cancer effects.

Acetoxychavicol acetate, found in an edible plant in the ginger family that comes from Thailand, has been shown in pre-clinical studies from several years ago to have anti-myeloma properties.

Green tea is believed to have several anti-cancer properties. But multiple myeloma patients beware: Chemicals in green tea called polyphenols can block the effectiveness of Velcade (bortezomib).

Antioxidants may help. But these, too, can reduce the effectiveness of ongoing chemotherapy.

Researchers had hoped another supplement, resveratrol, could help slow the advance of multiple myeloma.  Unfortunately, SRT501, a concentrated formulation of resveratrol, was associated with kidney problems so it isn’t being developed any more.  Who knows what this means for the natural form of resveratrol?

I have some experience with resveratrol.  A friend recommended I try a concentrated form of the supplement shortly after I was diagnosed.  I decided against it, fearing using an antioxidant like resveratrol in concentrated form might lessen the effectiveness of the chemotherapy I had just started.  In hindsight, sounds like I made the right decision!

However, one anti-myeloma supplement appears to stand head and shoulders above the rest: Curcumin.

Curcumin is an extract of turmeric, a spice widely used in India. Much has been written about how large amounts of curcumin may help prevent or slow multiple myeloma. The Myeloma Beacon featured several articles about this supplement in 2010.

I know a number of patients who have tried curcumin. All of them are back using conventional chemotherapy. A few have continued to use curcumin—along with their more conventional therapies—with the blessing of their oncologists.

Researchers at M.D. Anderson have run several non-human studies showing curcumin slows the growth of myeloma cells.

There are a few ongoing studies studying curcumin for use in multiple myeloma patients. One variable that has never been narrowed down is dosing. So even if it is true that curcumin inhibits myeloma cell growth, several important questions remain. How much curcumin is needed to achieve this result? How often should the compound be taken? Which delivery system (oral, IV, subcutaneous) works best?

Two things are crystal clear: First, researchers need to learn more about all of these supplements. Secondly, myeloma patients should always check with their oncologist before adding any supplement to their diet.

Feel good and keep smiling! Pat

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  • David Emerson said:


    Thanks very much for blogging about this important topic. However, I must call you on your statement that

    "Antioxidants may help. But these, too, can reduce the effectiveness of ongoing chemotherapy."

    The studies linked below address this concern.


    Not only does antioxidant supplementation enhance the effect of conventional chemo is minimizes the toxic side effects. I wish I knew this when I underwent VAD and cytoxan therapy in the beginning.

    As for curcumin, yes, this supplement clearly stands above the rest for mmers especially.


    David Emerson

  • Pat Killingsworth (author) said:

    Thanks for the input, David! Just being conservative- Pat

  • Lori Puente said:

    I agree with David on this point of anti-oxidants. The study showing green tea adversely effecting Velcade was a completely unrealistic situation of taking green tea, even in larger than normal quantities. I actually had a somewhat in depth conversation with a cancer researcher on the bogusness of some of this papers presentation on the subject. This researcher was intimate with Velcade. The amount of concentrated green tea given to these teeny mice were completely out of the realm of normal or even excessive use of green tea in human use. There was clearly an "agenda" in this study and the bias in its opening premise is astounding to me in a peer reviewed research paper. Physicians around the world now routinely throw this one study up as a reason to stop all supplement use. They went from it doesn't do anything and is a waste of money to OMG it could stop all the benefits of what you are doing!

    Having said all of that, Dave has chosen not take anything unprescribed on Velcade infusion days. Mostly it is because some he shouldn't for some and he can for others, but he just can't keep all straight. So as a practical matter he just gives his infusion a 12 hour window on either side because its easier for him to remember.

    It would be nice if TMB would delve into this green tea study more and present some clearer information on its merits. I recommend also speaking to the makers of Velcade in that process to get a balanced take on the study so that as with most things Myeloma, we can all confusingly make our own decisions!

  • Lori Puente said:

    OH sorry, also, Dave doesn't take green tea supplements, but he does enjoy a cup now and then, which is stated fairly clearly in the study, and with Don's naturopath (Myeloma Hope - http://myelomahope.blogspot.com/2009/03/green-tea-with-velcade.html) who contacted the authors, is generally not the problem.

    But I know that David Emerson has been delving deeply into the idea being bandied about continuously by doctors and on the web that anti-oxidants in general are bad for you when battling cancer. I've even read a lot of folks believe that getting a strong immune system will bring back Myeloma. Scary stuff. Sigh... the debates go on...

  • buffalopat said:

    Since the curcumin in tumeric seems to be so beneficial, it's an easy spice to toss onto many foods--especially scrambled eggs, cottage cheese and curried veggies. I tried it on oatmeal once and it wasn't too bad!

  • Pat Killingsworth (author) said:

    Hi Lori-
    My feeling is, except for the green tea thing, eating foods high in anti-oxidants just shouldn't be a problem. It's the super concentrated supplements I would be concerned about. Come on--a few handfuls of blueberries can't do anything but help, don't you agree? Pat

  • Pat Killingsworth (author) said:

    Studies have also shown Vitamin C can interfere with Velcade’s efficacy. Sorry, but direct links don't work well here in the comment section. But you can paste the following in your browser bar to read a related Myeloma Beacon article:

    Don't forget beans are an excellent source of anti-oxidants- Pat

  • Pat Killingsworth (author) said:

    Thanks for reading! Good suggestion about liberally spicing your food with turmeric. But you aren't going to get enough curcumin that way to achieve clinical levels currently being studied to fight myeloma. But why not? Can't hurt and might help. Another idea: Oregano is an incredibly potent anti-oxidant--so pile it on your pizza and load-up your spaghetti sauce! Pat

  • Sean Murray said:

    Thanks for fostering this thought provoking debate, Pat. I know that there has been a lot written on these topics and I've just begun trying to see how I can safely work out a plan for my good health. Interested in the human trials (as they exist), as well as the in vitro & in vivo studies. I don't want anything to harm my Vel/Dex/Rev protocol, don't you know! Lori's Dave and I have the same docs, I may hit her up for some info, as well as stay tuned to TMB and your blogs. Good work, as usual, Pat!

  • Pat Killingsworth (author) said:

    Thanks, Sean! I think we all would be interested in what your doctor has to say about supplement use and chemotherapy- Pat

  • Lori Puente said:

    I would indeed agree Pat. Concentrated anything on Velcade Infusion Days should be avoided. But outside of that, I have no problem with it. To be on the safe side, Dave simply avoids anything unprescribed on the day he is to have is Velcade. Mostly because he can't keep it straight. Ok to take this, not ok to take that. He has been on Maint. a year now and now problems. Don at Myeloma Hope's doc contacted authors and they said essentially the same thing I'm saying. Just give it a break on those days and let the medicine do its work. But I think many doctors and patients have misread the study and I find it frustrating, especially when the docs "misuse" the study. Thanks for the keeping the discussion going.

  • Pat Killingsworth (author) said:

    But what about Revlimid? I haven't read or heard anything about that. Eat lots of colorful, uncooked (although I often steam my broccoli)fruits and veggies. Good advice for everyone whether they are on chemo or not- Pat

  • Lori Puente said:

    We haven't seen any evidence, anecdotally, with our supplements while on Revlimid, and our doctors have a full list of what we are taking and are not concerned. Dave has remained in CR for almost two years. We only abstained from all supplements during the chemo "infusion" time frames of his treatment. We were given the OK to resume all supplements we were taking a couple of days after each infusion round. The amounts of the Revlimid compared to the onslaught of chemo drugs through IV are fairly small. I will tell you that Dave takes his supplements in the mornings and his Revlimid at night. It may be helpful to do it that way, but there are no studies.