Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Razelle Kurzrock, MD

Committee Member

Eduardo Bruera, MD

Committee Member

Shalini Dalal, MD

Committee Member

Siqing Fu, MD, PhD

Committee Member

Jonathan Trent II, MD, PhD


Cachexia is very common among patients with advanced pancreatic cancer and is a marker of poor prognosis. Weight loss in cachexia is due to both adipose and muscle compartments, and sarcopenia (severe muscle depletion) is associated with worse outcomes. Curcumin has shown a myriad of biological effects, including anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory. The ability of curcumin to attenuate cachexia and muscle loss has been tested in animal models, with conflicting results so far. The hypothesis of this study was that patients with advanced pancreatic cancer treated with curcumin for two months have less fat and muscle loss as compared to matched controls not treated with this compound. A matched 1:2 case-control retrospective study was conducted with 22 patients with pancreatic cancer who were treated with curcumin on a previous protocol and 44 untreated controls with the same diagnosis matched by age, gender, time from advanced cancer, body mass index, and number of prior therapies. Data was collected regarding oncologic treatment, medication use, weights, heights, and survival. Body composition was determined by computerized tomography analyses at two timepoints separated by 60±20 days. For treated patients, the first image was at the beginning of treatment and for controls it was determined by the matching time from advanced cancer. The evolution of body composition over time was quantitatively analyzed comparing both groups. All patients lost weight both due to fat and muscle losses, and patients treated with curcumin presented greater losses both in lean adipose body mass. Use of medications, chemotherapy, age, time from advanced cancer, baseline albumin, performance status, and number of prior therapies were not independently correlated with changes in body composition variables. Patients treated with curcumin had borderline shorter survival when compared with untreated patients. Sarcopenic treated patients had significantly shorter survival than non-sarcopenic counterparts, and sarcopenia status was not associated with survival among the controls. Treated patients with shorter survival showed a tendency to lose more lean and especially fat body mass as compared to untreated patients, maybe suggesting an effect of curcumin on shifting weight loss towards the end of life by impacting its mechanisms.


Neoplasms, Pancreas, Cachexia, Sarcopenia, Body composition, Curcumin



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