Modulation of anti-apoptotic and survival pathways by curcumin as a strategy to induce apoptosis in cancer cells

Biochem Pharmacol. 2008 Dec 1;76(11):1340-51. doi: 10.1016/j.bcp.2008.07.031. Epub 2008 Aug 3.


Apoptosis is a highly regulated mechanism by which cells undergo cell death in an active way. As one of the most challenging tasks concerning cancer is to induce apoptosis in malignant cells, researchers increasingly focus on natural products to modulate apoptotic signaling pathways. Curcumin, a natural compound isolated from the plant Curcuma longa, has chemopreventive properties, which are mainly due to its ability to arrest cell cycle and to induce apoptosis. This article reviews the main effects of curcumin on the different apoptotic signaling pathways involved in curcumin-induced apoptosis of cancer cells, including the intrinsic and extrinsic apoptosis pathways, the NF-kappaB-mediated pathway as well as the PI3K/Akt signaling pathway. This review also focuses on the sensitization of cells to TRAIL-induced apoptosis after curcumin treatment and shows that curcumin enhances the capacity to induce cell death of different chemotherapeutical drugs.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Apoptosis / drug effects*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Humans
  • NF-kappa B / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Signal Transduction


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • NF-kappa B
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt
  • Curcumin