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Carcinogenesis. 2009 Jun;30(6):1016-23. doi: 10.1093/carcin/bgp082. Epub 2009 Apr 9.

Lung tumor promotion by curcumin.

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  • 1Department of Cancer Biology, Comprehensive Cancer Center, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC 27157, USA.

Erratum in

  • Carcinogenesis. 2010 Oct;31(10):1903. Dosage error in published abstract; MEDLINE/PubMed abstract corrected; Dosage error in article text.


Curcumin exhibits anti-inflammatory and antitumor activity and is being tested in clinical trials as a chemopreventive agent for colon cancer. Curcumin's chemopreventive activity was tested in a transgenic mouse model of lung cancer that expresses the human Ki-ras(G12C) allele in a doxycycline (DOX) inducible and lung-specific manner. The effects of curcumin were compared with the lung tumor promoter, butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT), and the lung cancer chemopreventive agent, sulindac. Treatment of DOX-induced mice with dietary curcumin increased tumor multiplicity (36.3 +/- 0.9 versus 24.3 +/- 0.2) and progression to later stage lesions, results which were similar to animals that were co-treated with DOX/BHT. Microscopic examination showed that the percentage of lung lesions that were adenomas and adenocarcinomas increased to 66% in DOX/BHT, 66% in DOX/curcumin and 49% in DOX/BHT/curcumin-treated groups relative to DOX only treated mice (19%). Immunohistochemical analysis also showed increased evidence of inflammation in DOX/BHT, DOX/curcumin and DOX/BHT/curcumin mice relative to DOX only treated mice. In contrast, co-treatment of DOX/BHT mice with 200 p.p.m. [DOSAGE ERROR CORRECTED] of sulindac inhibited the progression of lung lesions and reduced the inflammation. Lung tissue from DOX/curcumin-treated mice demonstrated a significant increase (33%; P = 0.01) in oxidative damage, as assessed by the levels of carbonyl protein formation, relative to DOX-treated control mice after 1 week on the curcumin diet. These results suggest that curcumin may exhibit organ-specific effects to enhance reactive oxygen species formation in the damaged lung epithelium of smokers and ex-smokers. Ongoing clinical trials thus may need to exclude smokers and ex-smokers in chemopreventive trials of curcumin.

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