Dieneke Ferguson turned to curcumin after her chemotherapy and stem cell treatments failed
Dieneke Ferguson, 67, is leading a normal life more than ten years after being diagnosed with deadly myeloma.
She turned to the popular curry ingredient in desperation when chemotherapy and stem cell treatments failed.
Mrs Ferguson began taking 8 grams of curcumin – one of the main compounds in turmeric – each day in tablet form. It’s the equivalent of about two teaspoons.
Her illness has an average survival of just over five years – making it one of the most fatal forms of the disease.
Myeloma has an average survival rate of five years, but Ms Ferguson has remained healthy for over 10
In the absence of further antimyeloma treatment the patient plateaued and has remained stable for the last five years with good quality of life
It was rapidly spreading – causing increasing back pain – and she had already had a second relapse.
Dr Abbas Zaidi, a haematologist at Barts NHS Health Trust, said: “Here we describe a myeloma patient who started a daily dietary supplement of curcumin when approaching her third relapse.
“In the absence of further antimyeloma treatment the patient plateaued and has remained stable for the last five years with good quality of life.”
The remarkable improvement described in BMJ Case Reports follows previous research into the health benefits of turmeric which is packed with antioxidants.
Since the turn of the century more than 50 clinical trials have tested curcumin – the pigment in turmeric that gives it that bright yellow colour.
These suggest the spice can protect against lung disease, myeloma, cancers of the pancreas, colon and breast as well as Alzheimer’s, heart disease and depression.
It has also been shown to help speed recovery after surgery and effectively treat arthritis.
Writing in BMJ Case Reports, Dr Zaidi said: “Curcumin is a polyphenol derived from the perennial herb turmeric and has – for centuries – been used as a traditional Indian medicine.
Curcumin has been shown to have anti-proliferative effects in a wide range of tumours
“Several reports published over the two decades have claimed various health benefits of curcumin and this has led to its increasing popularity as a dietary supplement to prevent or treat a number of different diseases.
“The biological activity of curcumin is indeed remarkable.”
It produces multiple effects through its “natural antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic and analgesic properties.”
Dr Zaidi said: “More recently it has demonstrated anti-proliferative effects in a wide variety of tumour cells including myeloma cells and exerts its antiproliferative effects through multiple cellular targets that regulate cell growth and survival.”
Mrs Dieneke takes tablets which contain a form of curcumin that is better absorbed by the body
Mrs Ferguson was diagnosed with myeloma in 2007 and seemed to have little hope when she began taking curcumin in 2011.
Dr Zaidi said: “Over the past decade, advances in the understanding of the disease, together with the development of several novel treatments, have led to significant improvements in overall survival.
“Despite this, myeloma remains incurable, with a median overall survival of 5.2 years from diagnosis. The course of the disease is typically one of recurrent remission and relapse.
“However, patients progressively acquire resistance to treatment and subsequent remissions become shorter and shorter.”
Some seek to use dietary supplements but while they may help to improve quality of life there is little evidence they can increase survival.
Dr Zaidi said: “Among them, curcumin, the active constituent of turmeric, has gained popularity as a complementary therapy in several cancers.
“Here, we present a case of a heavily pretreated relapsing myeloma patient who, in the absence of further treatment options at the time, started daily curcumin and has since remained stable for the past five years.”
Mrs Dieneke continues to take curcumin without further anti-myeloma treatment and her cancer cell count is negligible.
As kitchen turmeric contains two per cent curcumin it would be physically impossible to eat enough to get the same dose.
Dr Zaiudi said: “Over the last 60 months, her myeloma has remained stable with minimal fluctuation in paraprotein level, her blood counts lie within the normal range and she has maintained good quality of life throughout this period.”
Mrs Dieneke, who lives in north London, first came across the potential remedy on the internet and decided to try it as a last resort.
Every year about 5,500 people in the UK are diagnosed with myeloma.
It occurs when the white blood cells produced in the bone marrow multiply uncontrollably and stop producing the normal antibodies needed to fight infection. The process causes bone damage, intense pain, fatigue and nerve damage.
Mrs Dieneke uses a product from an Indian company called Sabinsa made from three forms of curcumin molecules and which has been recommended by patient forums.
The tablets are expensive – £50 for ten days – but provide a form of curcumin that’s better absorbed by the body.