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Life Extension Magazine March 2011


Potential of the dietary antioxidants resveratrol and curcumin in prevention and treatment of hematologic malignancies.

Despite considerable improvements in the tolerance and efficacy of novel chemotherapeutic agents, the mortality of hematological malignancies is still high due to therapy relapse, which is associated with bad prognosis. Dietary polyphenolic compounds are of growing interest as an alternative approach, especially in cancer treatment, as they have been proven to be safe and display strong antioxidant properties. Here, we provide evidence that both resveratrol and curcumin possess huge potential for application as both chemopreventive agents and anticancer drugs and might represent promising candidates for future treatment of leukemia. Both polyphenols are currently being tested in clinical trials. We describe the underlying mechanisms, but also focus on possible limitations and how they might be overcome in future clinical use--either by chemically synthesized derivatives or special formulations that improve bioavailability and pharmacokinetics.

Molecules. 2010 Oct 12;15(10):7035-74

Curcumin dramatically enhances retinoic acid-induced superoxide generating activity via accumulation of p47-phox and p67-phox proteins in U937 cells.

The membrane bound cytochrome b558 composed of large gp91-phox and small p22-phox subunits, and cytosolic proteins p40-, p47- and p67-phox are important components of superoxide (O(2)(-))-generating system in phagocytes and B lymphocytes. A lack of this system in phagocytes is known to cause serious life-threatening infections. Here, we describe that curcumin, a polyphenol responsible for the yellow color of curry spice turmeric, dramatically activates the O(2)(-)-generating system during retinoic acid (RA)-induced differentiation of human monoblastic leukemia U937 cells to macrophage-like cells. When U937 cells were cultured in the presence of RA and curcumin, the O(2)(-)-generating activity increased more than 4-fold compared with that in the absence of the latter. Semiquantitative RT-PCR showed that co-treatment with RA and curcumin slightly enhanced gene expressions of the five components compared with those of the RA-treatment only. On the other hand, immunoblot analysis revealed that co-treatment with RA and curcumin caused remarkable accumulation of protein levels of p47-phox (to 7-fold) and p67-phox (to 4-fold) compared with those of the RA-treatment alone. These results suggested that curcumin dramatically enhances RA-induced O(2)(-)-generating activity via accumulation of cytosolic p47-phox and p67-phox proteins in U937 cells. Therefore, it should have the potential as an effective modifier in therapy of leukemia and/or as an immunopotentiator.

Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2010 Apr 23;395(1):61-5

Curcumin stimulates reactive oxygen species production and potentiates apoptosis induction by the antitumor drugs arsenic trioxide and lonidamine in human myeloid leukemia cell lines.

Arsenic trioxide (ATO, Trisenox) is an important antileukemic drug, but its efficacy is frequently low when used as a single agent. Here, we demonstrate that the apoptotic action of ATO is greatly increased when combined with subcytotoxic curcumin concentrations in U937 and HL60 human acute myeloid leukemia cells, and with lower efficacy in K562 chronic myelogenous leukemia cells. Curcumin exerts similar cooperative effect with the mitochondria-targeting drug lonidamine, whereas the response is negligible in combination with the DNA-targeting drug cisplatin. Curcumin plus ATO or lonidamine stimulates typical events of the mitochondrial executioner pathway (Bax and Bid activation, cytochrome c release, X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis down-regulation, and caspase-9/-3 activation) and causes mitochondrial transmembrane potential dissipation, which nevertheless represents a late event in the apoptotic response. Curcumin increases anion superoxide production, and its proapoptotic action in combination with ATO and lonidamine is mimicked by pro-oxidant agents (2-methoxyestradiol and H(2)O(2)) and prevented by antioxidant agents [Mn(III)tetrakis(4-benzoic acid)porphyrin chloride and N-acetyl-l-cysteine]. Within the assayed time period (16-24 h), curcumin does not significantly modify p38-mitogen-activated protein kinase and c-Jun NH(2)-terminal kinase phosphorylation/activation or nuclear factor-κB activity, but it greatly stimulates extracellular signal-regulated kinase (ERK) phosphorylation, and decreases Akt phosphorylation. Experiments using mitogen-activated protein kinase kinase/ERK inhibitors [2’-amino-3’-methoxyflavone (PD98059) and 1,4-diamino-2,3-dicyano-1,4-bis(2-aminophenylthio)butadiene (U0126)] and phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase inhibitor 2-(4-morpholinyl)-8-phenyl-4H-1-benzopyran-4-one (LY294002) indicate that ERK activation does not mediate and even restrains apoptosis potentiation, whereas Akt down-regulation facilitates apoptosis generation. In summary, cotreatment with curcumin may represent a useful manner of increasing the efficacy of ATO and lonidamine as antitumor drugs in myeloid leukemia cells.

J Pharmacol Exp Ther. 2010 Oct;335(1):114-23

Curcumin selectively induces apoptosis in cutaneous T-cell lymphoma cell lines and patients’ PBMCs: potential role for STAT-3 and NF-kappaB signaling.

Curcumin inhibits cell growth and induces apoptosis in a number of tumor cell lines and animal models. Human clinical trials indicated no dose-limiting toxicity when administered at doses up to 8 g per day. The purpose of this study was to address the antitumor effect of curcumin on cutaneous T-cell lymphoma (CTCL) cell lines and peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMCs) from patients with CTCL compared with healthy donors’ controls. Curcumin at 5-20 microM for 24 and 48 hours induced apoptosis in a time- and dose-dependent manner in three CTCL cell lines (namely MJ, Hut78, and HH). Curcumin at 5-20 microM for 48 hours also caused more apoptosis in patients’ PBMCs compared with healthy donors’ PBMCs (P<0.05). Curcumin decreased protein and mRNA expression levels of signal transducer and activator of transcription (STAT)-3, bcl-2, and survivin in three cell lines and in patients’ PBMCs. Curcumin inhibited STAT-3 and IkappaB-alpha phosphorylation, as well as suppressed DNA binding of nuclear factor (NF)-kappaB in these cells. Caspase-3 was activated and poly (ADP-Ribose) polymerase was cleaved after curcumin treatment. These data suggest that curcumin selectively induces apoptosis in association with the downregulation of STAT-3 and NF-kappaB signaling pathways in CTCL cells. Our findings provide a mechanistic rationale for the potential use of curcumin as a therapeutic agent for patients with CTCL.

J Invest Dermatol. 2010 Aug;130(8):2110-9

Curcumin decreases specificity protein expression in bladder cancer cells.

Curcumin is the active component of turmeric, and this polyphenolic compound has been extensively investigated as an anticancer drug that modulates multiple pathways and genes. In this study, 10 to 25 micromol/L curcumin inhibited 253JB-V and KU7 bladder cancer cell growth, and this was accompanied by induction of apoptosis and decreased expression of the proapoptotic protein survivin and the angiogenic proteins vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and VEGF receptor 1 (VEGFR1). Because expression of survivin, VEGF, and VEGFR1 are dependent on specificity protein (Sp) transcription factors, we also investigated the effects of curcumin on Sp protein expression as an underlying mechanism for the apoptotic and antiangiogenic activity of this compound. The results show that curcumin induced proteasome-dependent down-regulation of Sp1, Sp3, and Sp4 in 253JB-V and KU7 cells. Moreover, using RNA interference with small inhibitory RNAs for Sp1, Sp3, and Sp4, we observed that curcumin-dependent inhibition of nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB)-dependent genes, such as bcl-2, survivin, and cyclin D1, was also due, in part, to loss of Sp proteins. Curcumin also decreased bladder tumor growth in athymic nude mice bearing KU7 cells as xenografts and this was accompanied by decreased Sp1, Sp3, and Sp4 protein levels in tumors. These results show for the first time that one of the underlying mechanisms of action of curcumin as a cancer chemotherapeutic agent is due, in part, to decreased expression of Sp transcription factors in bladder cancer cells.

Cancer Res. 2008 Jul 1;68(13):5345-54

Drugs that target specificity proteins downregulate epidermal growth factor receptor in bladder cancer cells.

The epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) is an important chemotherapeutic target for tyrosine kinase inhibitors and antibodies that block the extracellular domain of EGFR. Betulinic acid (BA) and curcumin inhibited bladder cancer cell growth and downregulated specificity protein (Sp) transcription factors, and this was accompanied by decreased expression of EGFR mRNA and protein levels. EGFR, a putative Sp-regulated gene, was also decreased in cells transfected with a cocktail (iSp) containing small inhibitory RNAs for Sp1, Sp3, and Sp4, and RNA interference with individual Sp knockdown indicated that EGFR expression was primarily regulated by Sp1 and Sp3. BA, curcumin, and iSp also decreased phosphorylation of Akt in these cells, and downregulation of EGFR by BA, curcumin, and iSp was accompanied by induction of LC3 and autophagy, which is consistent with recent studies showing that EGFR suppresses autophagic cell death. The results show that EGFR is an Sp-regulated gene in bladder cancer, and drugs such as BA and curcumin that repress Sp proteins also ablate EGFR expression. Thus, compounds such as curcumin and BA that downregulate Sp transcription factors represent a novel class of anticancer drugs that target EGFR in bladder cancer cells and tumors by inhibiting receptor expression.

Mol Cancer Res. 2010 May;8(5):739-50

Curcumin potentiates the antitumor effects of gemcitabine in an orthotopic model of human bladder cancer through suppression of proliferative and angiogenic biomarkers.

Little progress has been made in the last three decades in the treatment of bladder cancer. Novel agents that are nontoxic and can improve the current standard of care of this disease are urgently needed. Curcumin, a component of Curcuma longa (also called turmeric), is one such agent that has been shown to suppress pathways linked to oncogenesis, including cell survival, proliferation, invasion and angiogenesis. We investigated whether curcumin has potential to improve the current therapy for bladder cancer, using an orthotopic mouse model. Curcumin potentiated the apoptotic effects of gemcitabine against human bladder cancer 253JBV cells in culture. Electrophoretic mobility shift assay revealed that curcumin also suppressed the gemcitabine-induced activation of the cell survival transcription factor NF-kappaB. In an orthotopic mouse model, bioluminescence imaging revealed that while curcumin alone significantly reduced the bladder tumor volume, maximum reduction was observed when curcumin was used in combination with gemcitabine (P<0.01 versus vehicle; P<0.01 versus gemcitabine alone). Curcumin also significantly decreased the proliferation marker Ki-67 and microvessel density (CD31) (P<0.01 versus vehicle; P<0.01 versus gemcitabine alone), but maximum reduction occurred when it was combined with gemcitabine (P<0.01 versus vehicle; P<0.01 versus gemcitabine alone). Curcumin abolished the constitutive activation of NF-kappaB in the tumor tissue; induced apoptosis, and decreased cyclin D1, VEGF, COX-2, c-myc and Bcl-2 expression in the bladder cancer tissue. Overall our results suggest that curcumin alone exhibits significant antitumor effects against human bladder cancer and it further potentiates the effects of gemictabine, possibly through the modulation of NF-kappaB signaling pathway.

Biochem Pharmacol. 2010 Jan 15;79(2):218-28

Curcumin blocks brain tumor formation.

Turmeric, an essential ingredient of culinary preparations of southeast Asia, contains a major polyphenolic compound, named curcumin or diferuloylmethane, which eliminates cancer cells derived from a variety of peripheral tissues. Although in vitro experiments have addressed its anti-tumor property, no in vivo studies have explored its anti-cancer activity in the brain. Oral delivery of this food component has been less effective because of its low solubility in water. We show that a soluble formulation of curcumin crosses the blood-brain barrier but does not suppress normal brain cell viability. Furthermore, tail vein injection, or more effectively, intracerebral injection through a cannula, blocks brain tumor formation in mice that had already received an intracerebral bolus of mouse melanoma cells (B16F10). While exploring the mechanism of its action in vitro we observed that the solubilized curcumin causes activation of proapoptotic enzymes caspase 3/7 in human oligodendroglioma (HOG) and lung carcinoma (A549) cells, and mouse tumor cells N18 (neuroblastoma), GL261 (glioma), and B16F10. A simultaneous decrease in cell viability is also revealed by MTT [3-(4, 5-dimethylthiazolyl-2)-2, 5-diphenyltetrazolium bromide] assays. Further examination of the B16F10 cells showed that curcumin effectively suppresses Cyclin D1, P-NF-kB, Bcl(XL), P-Akt, and VEGF, which explains its efficacy in blocking proliferation, survival, and invasion of the B16F10 cells in the brain. Taken together, solubilized curcumin effectively blocks brain tumor formation and also eliminates brain tumor cells. Therefore, judicious application of such injectable formulations of curcumin could be developed into a safe therapeutic strategy for treating brain tumors.

Brain Res. 2009 Feb 10

Curcumin acts as anti-tumorigenic and hormone-suppressive agent in murine and human pituitary tumour cells in vitro and in vivo.

Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is the active ingredient of the spice plant Curcuma longa and has been shown to act anti-tumorigenic in different types of tumours. Therefore, we have studied its effect in pituitary tumour cell lines and adenomas. Proliferation of lactosomatotroph GH3 and somatotroph MtT/S rat pituitary cells as well as of corticotroph AtT20 mouse pituitary cells was inhibited by curcumin in monolayer cell culture and in colony formation assay in soft agar. Fluorescence-activated cell sorting (FACS) analysis demonstrated curcumin-induced cell cycle arrest at G2/M. Analysis of cell cycle proteins by immunoblotting showed reduction in cyclin D(1), cyclin-dependent kinase 4 and no change in p27(kip). FACS analysis with Annexin V-FITC/7-aminoactinomycin D staining demonstrated curcumin-induced early apoptosis after 3, 6, 12 and 24 h treatment and nearly no necrosis. Induction of DNA fragmentation, reduction of Bcl-2 and enhancement of cleaved caspase-3 further confirmed induction of apoptosis by curcumin. Growth of GH3 tumours in athymic nude mice was suppressed by curcumin in vivo. In endocrine pituitary tumour cell lines, GH, ACTH and prolactin production were inhibited by curcumin. Studies in 25 human pituitary adenoma cell cultures have confirmed the anti-tumorigenic and hormone-suppressive effects of curcumin. Altogether, the results described in this report suggest this natural compound as a good candidate for therapeutic use on pituitary tumours.

Endocr Relat Cancer. 2009 Dec;16(4):1339-50

Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) induces apoptosis and blocks migration of human medulloblastoma cells.

Medulloblastoma (MB) is the most common malignant brain tumor in children. Bcl-2 and MMP-9 promote the pathogenesis and progression of MB. The expression of both bcl-2 and MMP-9 is regulated by the transcription factor NF-kappaB. Curcumin, a natural food additive, has a potent anti-proliferative effect, presumably mediated through NF-kappaB suppression. The tumor-suppressing effects of curcumin are well documented, however, its effect on MB is unknown. Our objectives were to: a) examine the effect of curcumin on MB cell proliferation and apoptosis; b) characterize the mechanism that mediates the effect of curcumin; c) examine the effects of curcumin on MB cell migration. We report that curcumin inhibited cell proliferation and blocked clonogenicity of MB cells. Furthermore, curcumin down-regulated bcl-2 and bcl(x)l, leading to caspase-mediated cell death. Finally, curcumin blocked migration of MB cells. Thus, we propose developing curcumin as a novel therapeutic agent for MB.

Anticancer Res. 2010 Feb;30(2):499-504

Curcumin inhibits the Sonic Hedgehog signaling pathway and triggers apoptosis in medulloblastoma cells.

Medulloblastoma is an aggressive primary brain tumor that arises in the cerebellum of children and young adults. The Sonic Hedgehog (Shh) signaling pathway that plays important roles in the pathology of this aggressive disease is a promising therapeutic target. In the present report we have shown that curcumin has cytotoxic effects on medulloblastoma cells. Curcumin suppressed also cell proliferation and triggered cell-cycle arrest at G(2)/M phase. Moreover, curcumin inhibited the Shh-Gli1 signaling pathway by downregulating the Shh protein and its most important downstream targets GLI1 and PTCH1. Furthermore, curcumin reduced the levels of beta-catenin, the activate/phosphorylated form of Akt and NF-kappaB, which led to downregulating the three common key effectors, namely C-myc, N-myc, and Cyclin D1. Consequently, apoptosis was triggered by curcumin through the mitochondrial pathway via downregulation of Bcl-2, a downstream anti-apoptotic effector of the Shh signaling. Importantly, the resistant cells that exhibited no decrease in the levels of Shh and Bcl-2, were sensitized to curcumin by the addition of the Shh antagonist, cyclopamine. Furthermore, we have shown that curcumin enhances the killing efficiency of nontoxic doses of cisplatin and gamma-rays. In addition, we present clear evidence that piperine, an enhancer of curcumin bioavailability in humans, potentiates the apoptotic effect of curcumin against medulloblastoma cells. This effect was mediated through strong downregulation of Bcl-2. These results indicate that curcumin, a natural nontoxic compound, represents great promise as Shh-targeted therapy for medulloblastomas.

Mol Carcinog. 2010 Mar;49(3):302-14

Curcumin inhibits the growth, induces apoptosis and modulates the function of pituitary folliculostellate cells.

The polyphenol curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is the active componenet of the spice plant Curcuma longa and has been shown to exert multiple actions on mammalian cells. We have studied its effect on folliculostellate (FS) TtT/GF mouse pituitary cells, representative of a multifunctional, endocrine inactive cell type of the anterior pituitary. Proliferation of TtT/GF cells was inhibited by curcumin in a monolayer cell culture and in the colony formation assay in soft agar. Fluorescence-activated cell-sorting (FACS) analysis demonstrated curcumin-induced cell cycle arrest at G(2)/M accompanied by inhibition of cyclin D(1) protein expression. Curcumin had a small effect on necrosis of TtT/GF cells, but it mainly stimulated apoptosis as demonstrated by FACS analysis (Annexin V-fluorescein isothiocyannate/7-aminoactinomycin D staining). Curcumin-induced apoptosis involved suppression of Bcl-2, stimulation of cleaved caspase-3 and induction of DNA fragmentation. Functional studies on FS cell-derived compounds showed that curcumin inhibited mRNA synthesis and release of angiogenic vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A). Immune-like functions of FS cells were impaired since curcumin downregulated Toll-like receptor 4, reduced nuclear factor-kappaB expression and suppressed bacterial endotoxin-induced interleukin-6 (IL-6) secretion. The inhibitory action of curcumin on VEGF-A and IL-6 production was also found in primary rat pituitary cell cultures, in which FS cells are the only source of these proteins. The observed effects of curcumin on FS cell growth, apoptosis and functions may have therapeutic consequences for the intrapituitary regulation of hormone production and release as well as for pituitary tumor pathogenesis.

Neuroendocrinology. 2010;91(2):200-10

Possible action mechanism for curcumin in pre-cancerous lesions based on serum and salivary markers of oxidative stress.

Extensive research within the past half-century has indicated that curcumin (diferuloylmethane), a yellow pigment in curry powder, exhibits anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory, and pro-apoptotic activities. We investigated whether the anti-pre-cancer activities assigned to curcumin are mediated through an anti-oxidant and DNA-protecting mechanism. Patients with oral leukoplakia, oral submucous fibrosis or lichen planus, and healthy individuals (n = 25 for each group) aged 17-50 years were selected. Salivary and serum oxidative markers such as malonaldehyde (MDA), 8-hydroxydeoxyguanosine (8-OHdG), vitamins C and E were measured just prior to the intake of curcumin, after one week of curcumin intake and following clinical cure of precancerous lesions. Serum and salivary vitamins C and E showed increases, while MDA and 8-OHdG levels showed decreases in patients with oral leukoplakia, submucous fibrosis and lichen planus after intake of curcumin for all categories of precancerous lesions. The changes in these values were observed to be statistically significant after clinical cure of the disease (P < 0.05). The five-point rating scale for pain, as well as lesion size in oral leukoplakia, submucous fibrosis and lichen planus, improved significantly (P < 0.05). In addition, in submucous fibrosis, mouth opening (P < 0.05) recovered significantly. In oral leukoplakia, submucous fibrosis and lichen planus, the levels of serum and salivary vitamins C and E increased significantly, while

MDA and 8-OHdG levels decreased after 131(15), 211(17), and 191(18) days, respectively. Values for serum and salivary vitamins C and E showed a significant decrease in oral leukoplakia, submucous fibrosis and lichen planus, in contrast to healthy individuals, but increased significantly in all groups subsequent to curcumin administration after clinical cure of lesions. Based on these results, we can conclude that curcumin mediates its anti-pre-cancer activities by increasing levels of vitamins C and E, and preventing lipid peroxidation and DNA damage.

J Oral Sci. 2010;52(2):251-6

Inhibitory effect of curcumin on motility of human oral squamous carcinoma YD-10B cells via suppression of ERK and NF-kappaB activations.

Oral squamous cell carcinomas (OSCCs) are characterized by a marked propensity for local invasion, so the identification of agents inhibiting the onset and progression of OSCC has recently gained interest. Here, we found that curcumin inhibited cell proliferation and motility with decreased activities of matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2/9 and decreased mRNA expressions of urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) and its receptor uPAR in the highly invasive human YD-10B OSCC cells. Western blot analysis showed that curcumin inhibited the activation of MAP kinases (especially ERK) and NF-kappaB, which are involved in the transcriptional regulation of proteolytic enzymes. In conclusion, curcumin is one of the strong phytochemicals with antimotility activity of OSCC; the inhibitory effect of curcumin on the motility of YD-10B cells could result from its potential to inhibit the activation of ERK/MAP kinase and NF-kappaB that consequently down-regulate the mRNA expressions and activities of proteolytic enzymes such as uPA and MMP-2/9.

Phytother Res. 2010 Apr;24(4):577-82

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