Curcumin (diferuloylmethane) is a polyphenol derived from the Curcuma longa plant. Curcumin has been used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine, as it is nontoxic and exhibits a variety of therapeutic properties, including antioxidant, analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antiseptic activities. Recently, certain studies have indicated that curcumin may exert anticancer effects in a variety of biological pathways involved in mutagenesis, apoptosis, tumorigenesis, cell cycle regulation and metastasis. The present study reviewed previous studies in the literature, which support the therapeutic activity of curcumin in cancer. In addition, the present study elucidated a number of the challenges concerning the use of curcumin as an adjuvant chemotherapeutic agent. All the studies reviewed herein suggest that curcumin is able to exert anti-inflammatory, antiplatelet, antioxidative, hepatoprotective and antitumor activities, particularly against cancers of the liver, skin, pancreas, prostate, ovary, lung and head neck, as well as having a positive effect in the treatment of arthritis.
Keywords: anti-inflammatory activity; anticancer agents; cancer; curcumin; nutraceutical.