BJC Open article

British Journal of Cancer (2004) 90, 1011–1015. doi:10.1038/sj.bjc.6601623
Published online 2 March 2004

Detection of curcumin and its metabolites in hepatic tissue and portal blood of patients following oral administration

G Garcea1, D J L Jones1, R Singh1, A R Dennison2, P B Farmer1, R A Sharma1, W P Steward1, A J Gescher1 and D P Berry2

  1. 1Cancer Biomarkers and Prevention Group, Departments of Cancer Studies and Biochemistry, University of Leicester, 5th Floor Robert Kilpatrick Clinical Sciences Building, Leicester LE2 7LX, UK
  2. 2Department of Hepatobiliary Surgery, The Leicester General Hospital, University Hospitals of Leicester, Gwendolen Road, Leicester LE5 4PW, UK

Correspondence: Dr G Garcea, Department of Oncology, The Robert Kilpatrick Clinical Sciences Building, University of Leicester, Leicester LE2 7LX, UK. E-mail:

Received 25 September 2003; Revised 25 November 2003; Accepted 3 December 2003



Studies in vitro and in animal models of colorectal and hepatocellular cancers suggest that curcumin is an effective chemopreventive agent. In this pilot trial, we investigated whether oral administration of curcumin results in concentrations of the agent in normal and malignant human liver tissue, which are sufficient to elicit pharmacological activity. In total, 12 patients with hepatic metastases from colorectal cancer received 450–3600mg of curcumin daily, for 1 week prior to surgery. Levels of curcumin and its metabolites were measured by HPLC in portal and peripheral blood, bile and liver tissue. Curcumin was poorly available, following oral administration, with low nanomolar levels of the parent compound and its glucuronide and sulphate conjugates found in the peripheral or portal circulation. While curcumin was not found in liver tissue, trace levels of products of its metabolic reduction were detected. In patients who had received curcumin, levels of malondialdehyde-DNA (M1G) adduct, which reflect oxidative DNA changes, were not decreased in post-treatment normal and malignant liver tissue when compared to pretreatment samples. The results suggest that doses of curcumin required to furnish hepatic levels sufficient to exert pharmacological activity are probably not feasible in humans.


curcumin; chemoprevention; human; pharmacokinetics