Ultrasound-induced cell death of nasopharyngeal carcinoma cells in the presence of curcumin

Integr Cancer Ther. 2011 Mar;10(1):70-6. doi: 10.1177/1534735410377197. Epub 2010 Aug 11.


Objectives: Curcumin, a natural pigment from a traditional Chinese herb, has been attracting extensive attention. The present study aims to investigate cell death of nasopharyngeal carcinoma (NPC) cells induced by ultrasound sonication in the presence of curcumin in vitro.

Methods: The NPC cell line CNE2 was chosen as a tumor model, and curcumin concentration was kept constant at 10 µM while the cells were subjected to ultrasound exposure for 8 s at an intensity of 0.46 W/cm(2). Cell death was evaluated using flow cytometry with annexinV-FITC and propidium iodine staining, and nuclear staining with Hoechst 33258. Mitochondrial membrane potential and intracellular reactive oxygen species (ROS) were analyzed using flow cytometry with rhodamine 123 and dichlorodihydrofluorecein diacetate staining.

Results: Flow cytometry showed that the combination of ultrasound and curcumin significantly increased the necrotic or late apoptotic rate by up to 31.37% compared with the controls. Nuclear condensation was observed in the nuclear staining, and collapse of ΔΨm and ROS increase were found in the CNE2 cells after the treatment with curcumin and ultrasound.

Conclusions: The findings demonstrate that the presence of curcumin significantly enhances the ultrasound-induced cell death and ROS level, and induces the collapse of ΔΨm, suggesting that ultrasound sonication can increase the cell death of NPC cells in the presence of curcumin and that the treatment using curcumin and ultrasound together is a potential therapeutic modality in the management of malignant tumors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Carcinoma
  • Cell Death / drug effects
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Potential, Mitochondrial / drug effects
  • Nasopharyngeal Carcinoma
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Nasopharyngeal Neoplasms / therapy
  • Reactive Oxygen Species / metabolism
  • Ultrasonics / methods*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Reactive Oxygen Species
  • Curcumin