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Int J Cancer. 2012 Aug 15;131(4):E569-78. doi: 10.1002/ijc.26479. Epub 2012 Jan 3.

Coupling to a cancer cell-specific antibody potentiates tumoricidal properties of curcumin.

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The College of Staten Island, City University of New York, Staten Island, NY, USA.


In vitro studies have shown that curcumin, a polyphenol from the culinary component turmeric, has strong anticancer properties. However, there is no consensus on its therapeutic effect in human. Our earlier experiments involving implanted murine melanoma B16F10 cells in the neck or brain of syngeneic C57BL6 mice showed that tail vein injection of curcumin blocks formation of lesions and tumor in these mice. However, such treatment was ineffective in eliminating established tumors that already occupied ≤10% of brain volume. Possible reasons include low solubility and rapid metabolism of curcumin in vivo. To increase its efficacy, we have linked curcumin through a cleavable arm to an antibody (Ab) against the melanoma surface antigen Muc18. The antibody-coupled curcumin was 230-fold more effective in eliminating B16F10 cells in vitro, and in vivo, it rapidly decimated established, B16F10-evoked brain tumors, enabling the rescued mice to live normally far beyond 90 days from implantation of cancer cells. In contrast, mice treated with Muc18 Ab alone died of brain tumor within a month. In B16F10 cells, curcumin-Ab (adduct) treatment caused a dramatic inhibition of NF-kB: a transcription factor that is constitutively activated in cancer cells. Furthermore, overexpression of NF-kB in the B16F10 cells blocked adduct-evoked stimulation of caspase-3/7 activity. Thus, by suppressing NF-kB, the curcumin adduct inhibits other downstream tumor-promoting proteins, thereby eliminating the B16F10 cells. Our study submits a novel yet generally applicable strategy of converting curcumin into a potent anticancer agent and provides a mechanistic framework for its action.

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