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PLoS One. 2015 Apr 24;10(4):e0124218. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0124218. eCollection 2015.

Curcumin induces apoptosis of upper aerodigestive tract cancer cells by targeting multiple pathways.

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Department of Hematology and Medical Oncology, Winship Cancer Institute of Emory University, Atlanta, GA, 30322, United States of America.


Curcumin, a natural compound isolated from the Indian spice "Haldi" or "curry powder", has been used for centuries as a traditional remedy for many ailments. Recently, the potential use of curcumin in cancer prevention and therapy urges studies to uncover the molecular mechanisms associated with its anti-tumor effects. In the current manuscript, we investigated the mechanism of curcumin-induced apoptosis in upper aerodigestive tract cancer cell lines and showed that curcumin-induced apoptosis is mediated by the modulation of multiple pathways such as induction of p73, and inhibition of p-AKT and Bcl-2. Treatment of cells with curcumin induced both p53 and the related protein p73 in head and neck and lung cancer cell lines. Inactivation of p73 by dominant negative p73 significantly protected cells from curcumin-induced apoptosis, whereas ablation of p53 by shRNA had no effect. Curcumin treatment also strongly inhibited p-AKT and Bcl-2 and overexpression of constitutively active AKT or Bcl-2 significantly inhibited curcumin-induced apoptosis. Taken together, our findings suggest that curcumin-induced apoptosis is mediated via activating tumor suppressor p73 and inhibiting p-AKT and Bcl-2.

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