Inhibitory effect of curcumin on WT1 gene expression in patient leukemic cells

Arch Pharm Res. 2006 Jan;29(1):80-7. doi: 10.1007/BF02977473.


Leukemias are common worldwide. Wilms' tumor1 (WT1) protein is highly expressed in leukemic blast cells of myeloid and lymphoid origin. Thus, WT1 mRNA serves as a tumor marker for leukemias detection and monitoring disease progression. Curcumin is well known for its anti-cancer property. The objective of this study was to investigate the effect of curcumin on WT1 gene expression in patient leukemic cells. The leukemic cells were collected from 70 childhood leukemia patients admitted at Maharaj Nakorn Chiang Mai Hospital, Chiang Mai, Thailand, in the period July 2003 to February 2005. There were 58 cases of acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL), 10 cases of acute myeloblastic leukemia (AML), and 2 cases of chronic myelocytic leukemia (CML). There were 41 males and 29 females ranging from 1 to 15 years old. Leukemic cells were cultured in the presence or absence of 10 mM curcumin for 48 h. WT1 mRNA levels were determined by RT-PCR. The result showed that curcumin reduced WT1 gene expression in the cells from 35 patients (50%). It affected the WT1 gene expression in 4 of 8 relapsed cases (50%), 12 of 24 cases of drug maintenance (50%), 7 of 16 cases of completed treatment (44%), and 12 of 22 cases of new patients (54%). The basal expression levels of WT1 gene in leukemic patient cells as compared to that of K562 cells were classified as low level (1-20%) in 6 of 20 cases (30%), medium level (21-60%) in 12 of 21 cases (57%), and high level (61-100%) in 17 of 23 cases (74%). In summary, curcumin decreased WT1 mRNA in patient leukemic cells. Thus, curcumin treatment may provide a lead for clinical treatment in leukemic patients in the future.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Electrophoresis, Polyacrylamide Gel
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Genes, Wilms Tumor / drug effects*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • K562 Cells
  • Leukemia / drug therapy*
  • Leukemia / genetics*
  • Leukemia / metabolism
  • Male
  • RNA, Messenger / biosynthesis
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Thiazoles


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Tetrazolium Salts
  • Thiazoles
  • thiazolyl blue
  • Curcumin