Effect of curcumin and paclitaxel on breast carcinogenesis

Int J Oncol. 2016 Dec;49(6):2569-2577. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2016.3741. Epub 2016 Oct 19.


Global cancer burden increased to 14.1 million new cases in 2012; and breast cancer is the most common cancer in women worldwide, with nearly 1.7 million new cases diagnosed in 2012. Curcumin is the major bioactive ingredient extracted from the rhizome of the plant Curcuma longa (turmeric). Paclitaxel is a microtubule-stabilizing agent originally isolated from the bark of Taxus brevifolia. Curcumin and paclitaxel were evaluated with two human breast cancer cell lines as the luminal MCF-7 and the basal-like MDA-MB-231 that are either positive or negative for hormonal receptors estrogen receptor, progesterone receptor and HER2, respectively. Results indicated that curcumin combined with paclitaxel decreased c-Ha-Ras, Rho-A, p53 and Bcl-xL gene expression in comparison to control and substances alone in MCF-7 cell line. These two substances alone and combined decreased gene expression of Bcl-2 and NF-κB. However, CCND1 increased when both substances were combined in MCF-7 cells. Such substances decreased Bcl-2 and increased Bax protein expression. However, curcumin alone decreased IκBα and Stat-3 gene expression. Paclitaxel alone and combined increased IκBα and Stat-3. Curcumin alone and combined with paclitaxel increased p53, Bid, caspase-3, caspase-8 and Bax gene expression in MDA-MB-231, whereas Bcl-xL decreased such expression in MDA-MB-231 cells. When paclitaxel and curcumin were combined the expression of Bcl-2 protein was decreased. However, either substance alone and combined increased Bax protein expression corroborating the apoptotic effect of these substances. It can be concluded that curcumin may be of considerable value in synergistic therapy of breast cancer reducing the associated toxicity with use of drugs.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology*
  • BH3 Interacting Domain Death Agonist Protein / metabolism
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Carcinogenesis / drug effects*
  • Caspase 3 / metabolism
  • Caspase 8 / metabolism
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Cyclin D1 / metabolism
  • Female
  • Humans
  • MCF-7 Cells
  • NF-KappaB Inhibitor alpha / metabolism
  • Paclitaxel / pharmacology*
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / biosynthesis
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / genetics
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor / metabolism
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / biosynthesis
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / genetics
  • bcl-X Protein / biosynthesis
  • bcl-X Protein / genetics
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / biosynthesis
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein / genetics


  • BCL2L1 protein, human
  • BH3 Interacting Domain Death Agonist Protein
  • BID protein, human
  • CCND1 protein, human
  • STAT3 Transcription Factor
  • STAT3 protein, human
  • TP53 protein, human
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • bcl-X Protein
  • RHOA protein, human
  • Cyclin D1
  • NF-KappaB Inhibitor alpha
  • Caspase 3
  • Caspase 8
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)
  • rhoA GTP-Binding Protein
  • Curcumin
  • Paclitaxel