Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), which has been shown to inhibit growth of transformed cells, has no discernible toxicity and achieves high levels in colonic mucosa. 5-fluorouracil (5-FU) or 5-FU plus oxaliplatin (FOLFOX) remains the backbone of colorectal cancer chemotherapeutics, but with limited success. The present investigation was, therefore, undertaken to examine whether curcumin in combination with conventional chemotherapeutic agent(s)/regimen will be a superior therapeutic strategy for colorectal cancer. Indeed, results of our in vitro studies demonstrated that curcumin together with FOLFOX produced a significantly greater inhibition (p < 0.01) of growth and stimulated apoptosis (p < 0.001) of colon cancer HCT-116 and HT-29 cells than that caused by curcumin, 5-FU, curcumin + 5-FU or FOLFOX. These changes were associated with decreased expression and activation (tyrosine phosphorylation) of EGFR, HER-2, HER-3 (72-100%) and IGF-1R (67%) as well as their downstream effectors such as Akt and cycloxygenase-2 (51-97%). Furthermore, while these agents produced a 2-3-fold increase in the expression of IGF-binding protein-3 (IGFBP-3), curcumin together with FOLFOX caused a 5-fold increase in the same, when compared to controls. This in turn led to increased sequestration of IGF by IGFBP-3 rendering IGF-1 unavailable for binding to and activation of IGF-1R. We conclude that the superior effects of the combination therapy of curcumin and FOLFOX are due to attenuation of EGFRs and IGF-1R signaling pathways. We also suggest that inclusion of curcumin to the conventional chemotherapeutic agent(s)/regimen could be an effective therapeutic strategy for colorectal cancer.
Copyright 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.