Researchers from Tohoku University in Sendai, Japan, synthesized and tested 90 variations of curcumin, the yellowish component of turmeric that gives curry its flavour, in a bid to boost its anti-cancer effect. Curcumin has already been linked between having a positive effect on cancer as well as potential benefits for reducing cholesterol levels and improving cardiovascular health. However, natural curcumin has low bioavailability and quickly loses its anti-cancer attributes when ingested. Out of the 90 variations of the molecules structure synthesized by the team, two (GO-Y030 and GO-Y031) proved to be more potent and bioavailable, the scientists said. The work from Tohoku University adds even greater weight to the potential of the compound, and if further study on understanding the mechanism proves fruitful, then the analogues could be used to help target other cancers. Hiroyuki Shibata, associate professor at Tohoku University said: "Our new analogues have enhanced growth suppressive abilities against colorectal cancer cell lines, up to 30 times greater than natural curcumin." In a mouse model for colorectal cancer, mice fed with five milligrams of GO-Y030 or GO-Y031 fared 42 and 51 percent better than it did in mice in the control group, he said. Their results were announced at the Centennial Conference on Translational Cancer Medicine in Singapore this week. In its natural form, the curcumin molecule is composed of two ring structures linked by a chain of seven carbon atoms. The active ring structures of GO-Y030 and GO-Y031, however, are linked by a shorter, five-carbon chain, which Shibata says might - for reasons still under investigation -account for their enhanced potency. Shibata added: "In addition to colorectal cancer, the catenin-degrading abilities of these molecules could apply to other forms of cancer, such as gastric cancer. "In addition to their chemopreventative abilities, these molecules might also form the basis of a potent chemotherapy, either alone or in combination with other modes of therapy." Shibata and his team will now further examine the drug delivery mechanisms, toxicology and pharmacokinetics of these analogues, before extending the research to clinical trials. Their studies were funded by the Japanese Society for the Promotion of Science and the Miyagi Health Service Association.