Curcumin: New Insights into an Ancient Ingredient against Cancer

PMID: 31013694
Journal: International journal of molecular sciences (volume: 20, issue: 8, Int J Mol Sci 2019 Apr;20(8))
Published: 2019-04-12

Willenbacher E, Khan SZ, Mujica SCA, Trapani D, Hussain S, Wolf D, Willenbacher W, Spizzo G, Seeber A


Cancer patients frequently use complementary medicine. Curcumin (CUR) and its derivates (from the extract of L.) represent some of the most frequently used ones, having a long history in traditional Asian medicine. CUR was demonstrated, both in vitro and in vivo, to have significant anti-inflammatory effects, thus potentially counteracting cancer-promoting inflammation, which is a hallmark of cancer. CUR modulate a plethora of signaling pathways in cancer cells, comprising the NF-κB (nuclear factor k-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells), the JAK/STAT (Janus-Kinase/Signal Transducers and Activators of Transcription), and the TGF-β (transforming growth factor-β) pathways. Furthermore, CUR confers properties of electron receptors, which destabilize radical oxygen species (ROS), explaining its antioxidant and anti-apopototic effects. Although CUR has a low bioavailability, its role in advanced cancer treatment and supportive care was addressed in numerous clinical trials. After promising results in phase I⁻II trials, multiple phase III trials in different indications are currently under way to test for direct anti-cancer effects. In addition, CUR exerts beneficial effects on cancer treatment-related neurotoxcity, cardiotoxicity, nephrotoxicity, hemato-toxicity, and others. More efficient galenic formulations are tested to optimze CUR’s usability in cancer treatment. This review should provide a comprehensive overview of basic science, and pre-clinical and clinical data on CUR in the field of oncology.