Chemopreventive and chemotherapeutic potential of curcumin in breast cancer

Curr Drug Targets. 2012 Dec;13(14):1799-819. doi: 10.2174/138945012804545632.


Breast cancer remains the leading cause of cancer death among females worldwide. It signifies a shift from the previous decade during which the most common cause of cancer death was cervical cancer. Current treatment modalities, including surgery, radiotherapy, and adjuvant chemotherapy or hormone therapy, have not been successful enough to impart significant improvement in the morbidity or mortality of breast cancer. This cancer is highly resistant to chemotherapy as no effective treatment exists for advanced disease conditions. Moreover, there is a dearth of ideal protein biomarkers of breast cancer in plasma or serum that can be used with desired sensitivity and specificity. Along with the existing therapeutic modalities of breast cancer the focus of researchers and clinicians have shifted towards the exploration of the preventive and therapeutic uses of natural products, including dietary phytoconstituents. Curcumin, the principal active component of Indian curry spice turmeric, has been found to exert preventive and therapeutic effects in various cancers. This is, in part, due to its ability to influence a diverse range of molecular targets and signaling pathways. The ability of curcumin to enhance the efficacy of existing chemotherapeutic agents is an added advantage. The current review critically analyzes various aspects of curcumin-related research conducted for molecular understanding of its efficacy in in vitro and in vivo models of breast cancer. The article also highlights recent developments with synthetic analogs of curcumin and nanocurcumin which are in the horizon of next generation targeted therapy with curcumin in breast cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / therapeutic use*
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Chemoprevention / methods
  • Curcumin / chemistry
  • Curcumin / pharmacology
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Curcumin