Curcumin sensitizes TRAIL-resistant xenografts: molecular mechanisms of apoptosis, metastasis and angiogenesis

Mol Cancer. 2008 Jan 29;7:16. doi: 10.1186/1476-4598-7-16.


Background: We have recently shown that curcumin (a diferuloylmethane, the yellow pigment in turmeric) enhances apoptosis-inducing potential of TRAIL in prostate cancer PC-3 cells, and sensitizes TRAIL-resistant LNCaP cells in vitro through multiple mechanisms. The objectives of this study were to investigate the molecular mechanisms by which curcumin sensitized TRAIL-resistant LNCaP xenografts in vivo.

Methods: Prostate cancer TRAIL-resistant LNCaP cells were implanted in Balb c nude mice to examine the effects of curcumin and/or TRAIL on tumor growth and genes related to apoptosis, metastasis and angiogenesis.

Results: Curcumin inhibited growth of LNCaP xenografts in nude mice by inducing apoptosis (TUNEL staining) and inhibiting proliferation (PCNA and Ki67 staining), and sensitized these tumors to undergo apoptosis by TRAIL. In xenogrfated tumors, curcumin upregulated the expression of TRAIL-R1/DR4, TRAIL-R2/DR5, Bax, Bak, p21/WAF1, and p27/KIP1, and inhibited the activation of NFkappaB and its gene products such as cyclin D1, VEGF, uPA, MMP-2, MMP-9, Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL. The regulation of death receptors and members of Bcl-2 family, and inactivation of NFkappaB may sensitize TRAIL-resistant LNCaP xenografts. Curcumin also inhibited number of blood vessels in tumors, and circulating endothelial growth factor receptor 2-positive endothelial cells in mice.

Conclusion: The ability of curcumin to inhibit tumor growth, metastasis and angiogenesis, and enhance the therapeutic potential of TRAIL suggests that curcumin alone or in combination with TRAIL can be used for prostate cancer prevention and/or therapy.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21 / metabolism
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 / metabolism
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects*
  • Drug Screening Assays, Antitumor
  • Humans
  • Interleukin-2 / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2 / metabolism
  • Receptors, Death Domain / metabolism
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / pharmacology*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Cyclin-Dependent Kinase Inhibitor p21
  • Interleukin-2
  • NF-kappa B
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-bcl-2
  • Receptors, Death Domain
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • Cyclin D1
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Curcumin