Supportive Care in Cancer

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 1543–1552 | Cite as

Oral curcumin for radiation dermatitis: a URCC NCORP study of 686 breast cancer patients

  • Julie Ryan Wolf
  • Charles E. Heckler
  • Joseph J. Guido
  • Anita R. Peoples
  • Jennifer S. Gewandter
  • Marilyn Ling
  • Vincent P. Vinciguerra
  • Thomas Anderson
  • Lisa Evans
  • James Wade
  • Alice P. Pentland
  • Gary R. Morrow
Original Article



Despite advances in medical technology, radiation dermatitis occurs in 95% of patients receiving radiation therapy (RT) for cancer. Currently, there is no standard and effective treatment for the prevention or control of radiation dermatitis. The goal of the study was to determine the efficacy of oral curcumin, one of the biologically active components in turmeric, at reducing radiation dermatitis severity (RDS) at the end of RT, using the RDS scale, compared to placebo.


This was a multisite, randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial of 686 breast cancer patients. Patients took four 500-mg capsules of placebo or curcumin three times daily throughout their prescribed course of RT until 1 week post-RT.


A total of 686 patients were included in the final analyses (87.5% white females, mean age = 58). Linear mixed-model analyses demonstrated that curcumin did not reduce radiation dermatitis severity at the end of RT compared to placebo (B (95% CI) = 0.044 (− 0.101, 0.188), p = 0.552). Fewer curcumin patients with RDS > 3.0 suggested a trend toward reduced severity (7.4 vs. 12.9%, p = 0.082). Patient-reported changes in pain, symptoms, and quality of life were not statistically significant between arms.


Oral curcumin did not significantly reduce radiation dermatitis severity compared to placebo. The skin rating variation and broad eligibility criteria could not account for the undetectable therapeutic effect. An objective measure for radiation dermatitis severity and further exploration for an effective treatment for radiation dermatitis is warranted.


Radiation therapy Dermatitis Curcumin Cancer Skin 



This study was supported by the FDA IND 75,444, the National Institutes of Health PHS grant R25CA102618 (Cancer Control research), and UG1CA189961 (NCORP).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

None of the authors have any conflicts of interest to disclose. I (JRW) have full control of all primary data and agree to allow the journal to review the data if requested.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Julie Ryan Wolf
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Charles E. Heckler
    • 3
    • 4
  • Joseph J. Guido
    • 3
    • 4
  • Anita R. Peoples
    • 3
  • Jennifer S. Gewandter
    • 5
  • Marilyn Ling
    • 2
  • Vincent P. Vinciguerra
    • 6
  • Thomas Anderson
    • 7
  • Lisa Evans
    • 8
  • James Wade
    • 9
  • Alice P. Pentland
    • 1
  • Gary R. Morrow
    • 3
    • 4
  1. 1.Department of DermatologyUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Department of Radiation OncologyUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  3. 3.URCC NCORP Research BaseUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  4. 4.Department of SurgeryUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  5. 5.Department of AnesthesiologyUniversity of Rochester Medical CenterRochesterUSA
  6. 6.North Shore-LIJ Cancer InstituteNew Hyde ParkUSA
  7. 7.Columbus NCORPColumbusUSA
  8. 8.Southeast Clinical Oncology Research ConsortiumWinston-SalemUSA
  9. 9.Heartland NCORPDecaturUSA

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