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Clin Cancer Res. 2005 Oct 1;11(19 Pt 1):6994-7002.

Curcumin suppresses growth of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma.

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  • 1Division of Head and Neck Surgery, David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California at Los Angeles, 90095-1624, USA.



The purpose of this study was to determine whether curcumin would trigger cell death in the head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) cell lines CCL 23, CAL 27, and UM-SCC1 in a dose-dependent fashion.


HNSCC cells were treated with curcumin and assayed for in vitro growth suppression using 3-(4,5-dimethylthiozol-2-yl)-2,5-diphenyl tetrazolium bromide and fluorescence-activated cell sorting analyses. Expression of p16, cyclin D1, phospho-Ikappabeta, and nuclear factor-kappabeta (NF-kappabeta) were measured by Western blotting, gel shift, and immunofluorescence.


Addition of curcumin resulted in a dose-dependent growth inhibition of all three cell lines. Curcumin treatment resulted in reduced nuclear expression of NF-kappabeta. This effect on NF-kappabeta was further reflected in the decreased expression of phospho-Ikappabeta-alpha. Whereas the expression of cyclin D1, an NF-kappabeta-activated protein, was also reduced, there was no difference in the expression of p16 at the initial times after curcumin treatment. In vivo growth studies were done using nude mice xenograft tumors. Curcumin was applied as a noninvasive topical paste to the tumors and inhibition of tumor growth was observed in xenografts from the CAL27 cell line.


Curcumin treatment resulted in suppression of HNSCC growth both in vitro and in vivo. Our data support further investigation into the potential use for curcumin as an adjuvant or chemopreventive agent in head and neck cancer.

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