Identification of a novel compound (β-sesquiphellandrene) from turmeric (Curcuma longa) with anticancer potential: comparison with curcumin

Invest New Drugs. 2015 Dec;33(6):1175-86. doi: 10.1007/s10637-015-0296-5. Epub 2015 Nov 2.


Considering that as many as 80% of the anticancer drugs have their roots in natural products derived from traditional medicine, we examined compounds other than curcumin from turmeric (Curcuma longa) that could exhibit anticancer potential. Present study describes the isolation and characterization of another turmeric-derived compound, β-sesquiphellandrene (SQP) that exhibits anticancer potential comparable to that of curcumin. We isolated several compounds from turmeric, including SQP, α-curcumene, ar-turmerone, α-turmerone, β-turmerone, and γ-turmerone, only SQP was found to have antiproliferative effects comparable to those of curcumin in human leukemia, multiple myeloma, and colorectal cancer cells. While lack of the NF-κB-p65 protein had no effect on the activity of SQP, lung cancer cells that expressed p53 were more susceptible to the cytotoxic effect of SQP than were cells that lacked p53 expression. SQP was also found to be highly effective in suppressing cancer cell colony formation and inducing apoptosis, as shown by assays of intracellular esterase activity, plasma membrane integrity, and cell-cycle phase. SQP was found to induce cytochrome c release and activate caspases that lead to poly ADP ribose polymerase cleavage. SQP exposure was associated with downregulation of cell survival proteins such cFLIP, Bcl-xL, Bcl-2, c-IAP1, and survivin. Furthermore, SQP was found to be synergistic with the chemotherapeutic agents velcade, thalidomide and capecitabine. Overall, our results indicate that SQP has anticancer potential comparable to that of curcumin.

Keywords: Anticancer; Apoptosis; Curcumin; Turmeric; β-sesquiphellandrene.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / chemistry*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / isolation & purification
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic / pharmacology*
  • Cell Survival / drug effects
  • Cell Survival / physiology
  • Curcuma*
  • Curcumin / chemistry*
  • Curcumin / isolation & purification
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Dose-Response Relationship, Drug
  • HCT116 Cells
  • Humans
  • Sesquiterpenes / chemistry*
  • Sesquiterpenes / isolation & purification
  • Sesquiterpenes / pharmacology*


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic
  • Sesquiterpenes
  • Curcumin