Differential sensitivity of human mammary epithelial and breast carcinoma cell lines to curcumin

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1999 Apr;54(3):269-78. doi: 10.1023/a:1006170224414.


Curcumin has anti-inflammatory, antiproliferative, and antitumor effects. To understand the chemopreventive mechanism of curcumin against human malignancies, the cellular and molecular changes induced by this agent in human mammary epithelial (MCF-10A) and breast carcinoma (MCF- 7/TH) cell lines were investigated. The human multidrug- resistant breast cancer cell line was 3.5 fold more sensitive to curcumin than the mammary epithelial cell line. Even though both cell lines accumulated a similar amount of curcumin, a significantly higher percentage of apoptotic cells was induced in breast cancer cells compared to a very low percentage of apoptosis in mammary epithelial cells. Incubation of breast cancer cells with 20 and 40 microM curcumin for 24 h induced G2 block and sub-G0/G1 cell population, respectively. Curcumin treatment caused a reduction in the expression of Ki67, PCNA, and p53 mRNAs in breast cancer cells. The human mammary epithelial cell line showed a down-regulation of p21 mRNA and an up-regulation of Bax mRNA expression with curcumin treatment. The results suggest that apoptosis is involved in the curcumin-induced inhibition of tumor cell growth, and genes associated with cell proliferation and apoptosis may be playing a role in the chemopreventive action of curcumin.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Algorithms
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Breast / cytology
  • Breast / drug effects*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Cell Line
  • Clone Cells
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use
  • Epithelial Cells / drug effects
  • Female
  • Gene Expression / drug effects
  • Humans
  • RNA, Messenger / genetics
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / drug effects
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured / metabolism


  • RNA, Messenger
  • Curcumin