A UK trial is investigating whether a curry ingredient can improve the treatment of patients with advanced bowel cancer.
Scientists will supplement standard chemotherapy with pills containing curcumin, a compound found in the yellow curry spice turmeric.
Laboratory tests have suggested that curcumin can boost the ability of chemotherapy drugs to kill bowel cancer cells. The compound is known to have powerful anti-inflammatory properties and also acts as an antioxidant.
Some studies have indicated it may slow the spread of cancer, improve the effectiveness of chemotherapy and protect healthy cells from the effects of radiotherapy. However, hard evidence from properly conducted scientific trials is lacking.
The two-year trial, by scientists from Cancer Research UK and the University of Leicester, aims to recruit about 40 patients with bowel cancer that has spread to the liver.
Trial leader Professor William Steward, director of the Experimental Cancer Medicine Centre at the University of Leicester, said: "The prospect that curcumin might increase the sensitivity of cancer cells to chemotherapy is exciting because it could mean giving lower doses, so patients have fewer side-effects and can keep having treatment for longer."