Curcumin exerts multiple suppressive effects on human breast carcinoma cells

Int J Cancer. 2002 Mar 10;98(2):234-40. doi: 10.1002/ijc.10183.


In our study, we present experimental evidence suggesting that curcumin exerts multiple different suppressive effects on human breast carcinoma cells in vitro. Our experiments demonstrate that curcumin's antiproliferative effects are estrogen dependent in ER (estrogen receptor)-positive MCF-7 cells, being more pronounced in estrogen-containing media and in the presence of exogenous 17-beta estradiol. Curcumin inhibits the expression of ER downstream genes including pS2 and TGF-beta (transforming growth factor) in ER-positive MCF-7 cells, and this inhibition is also dependent on the presence of estrogen. Curcumin also decreases ERE (estrogen responsive element)-CAT activities induced by 17-beta estradiol. In addition, we demonstrate that curcumin exerts strong anti-invasive effects in vitro that are not estrogen dependent in the ER-negative MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells. These anti-invasive effects appear to be mediated through the downregulation of MMP-2 (matrix metalloproteinase) and the upregulation of TIMP-1 (tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase), 2 common effector molecules that have been implicated in regulating tumor cell invasion. Our study also demonstrates that curcumin inhibits the transcript levels of 2 major angiogenesis factors VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) and b-FGF (basic fibroblast growth factor) mainly in ER-negative MDA-MB-231 cells.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / genetics
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Carcinoma / genetics
  • Carcinoma / metabolism*
  • Carcinoma / pathology
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins / metabolism
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • Estrogen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Proteins / genetics
  • Proteins / metabolism
  • RNA, Neoplasm / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Response Elements
  • Transcription, Genetic
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha / genetics
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha / metabolism
  • Trefoil Factor-1
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • CDKN1A protein, human
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Cyclins
  • Estrogen Antagonists
  • Proteins
  • RNA, Neoplasm
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • TFF1 protein, human
  • Transforming Growth Factor alpha
  • Trefoil Factor-1
  • Tumor Suppressor Proteins
  • Curcumin