Curcumin enhances the effect of cisplatin in suppression of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma via inhibition of IKKβ protein of the NFκB pathway

Mol Cancer Ther. 2010 Oct;9(10):2665-75. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-10-0064.


Previous experiments have shown that curcumin or cisplatin treatment suppresses growth of head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC). To study the potential cooperative effect of both agents, two HNSCC cell lines were treated with curcumin or cisplatin alone or in combination. In vivo studies consisted of intravenous tail vein injection of liposomal curcumin, with intraperitoneal cisplatin, into nude mice growing xenograft HNSCC tumors. Introduction of curcumin and suboptimal concentrations of cisplatin showed a significant suppressive effect compared with treatment with either agent alone. Reduced expression of cyclin D1, IκBα, phospho-IκBα, and IKKβ occurred in cisplatin- and curcumin-treated cell lines. Confocal microscopy showed expression of IKKβ in the nucleus of the cell lines. Chromatin immunoprecipitation assay on DNA isolated from IKKβ immunoprecipitated samples showed PCR amplification of interleukin-8 promoter sequences, a binding site of NFκB, indicating an interaction between IKKβ and NFκB. Curcumin inhibited IKKβ in the cytoplasm and nucleus, leading to reduced NFκB activity, with no effect on phospho-AKT. In vivo studies showed significant growth inhibition of xenograft tumors treated with a combination of liposomal curcumin and cisplatin. The suppressive effect of curcumin was mediated through inhibition of cytoplasmic and nuclear IKKβ, resulting in inhibition of NFκB activity. Cisplatin treatment led to cellular senescence, indicating an effect mediated by p53 activation. The mechanisms of the two agents through different growth signaling pathways suggest potential for the clinical use of subtherapeutic doses of cisplatin in combination with curcumin, which will allow effective suppression of tumor growth while minimizing the toxic side effects of cisplatin.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Base Sequence
  • Blotting, Western
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / enzymology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chromatin Immunoprecipitation
  • Cisplatin / pharmacology*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • DNA Primers
  • Female
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Head and Neck Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Humans
  • I-kappa B Kinase / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • NF-kappa B / metabolism*
  • Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Transplantation, Heterologous


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA Primers
  • NF-kappa B
  • I-kappa B Kinase
  • Curcumin
  • Cisplatin