Radiation therapy plays a central role in adjuvant strategies for the treatment of both pre- and post-operative human cancers. However, radiation therapy has low efficacy against cancer cells displaying radio-resistant phenotypes. Ionizing radiation has been shown to enhance ROS generation, which mediates apoptotic cell death. Further, concomitant use of sensitizers with radiation improves the efficiency of radiotherapy against a variety of human cancers. Here, the radio-sensitizing effect of curcumin (a derivative of turmeric) was investigated against growth of HCT-15 cells and tumor induction in C57BL/6J mice. Ionizing radiation induced apoptosis through ROS generation and down-regulation of Prp4K, which was further potentiated by curcumin treatment. Flow cytometry revealed a dose-dependent response for radiation-induced cell death, which was remarkably reversed by transfection of cells with Prp4K clone. Over-expression of Prp4K resulted in a significant decrease in ROS production possibly through activation of an anti-oxidant enzyme system. To elucidate an integrated mechanism, Prp4K knockdown by siRNA ultimately restored radiation-induced ROS generation. Furthermore, B16F10 xenografts in C57BL/6J mice were established in order to investigate the radio-sensitizing effect of curcumin in vivo. Curcumin significantly enhanced the efficacy of radiation therapy and reduced tumor growth as compared to control or radiation alone. Collectively, these results suggest a novel mechanism for curcumin-mediated radio-sensitization of cancer based on ROS generation and down-regulation of Prp4K.
Keywords: Apoptosis; Cancer; Curcumin; ROS; Radio-sensitizer; Radiotherapy.
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