Molecular targets of curcumin in breast cancer (Review)

Mol Med Rep. 2019 Jan;19(1):23-29. doi: 10.3892/mmr.2018.9665. Epub 2018 Nov 19.


Curcumin (diferuloylmethane), an orange‑yellow component of turmeric or curry powder, is a polyphenol natural product isolated from the rhizome of Curcuma longa. For centuries, curcumin has been used in medicinal preparations and as a food colorant. In recent years, extensive in vitro and in vivo studies have suggested that curcumin possesses activity against cancer, viral infection, arthritis, amyloid aggregation, oxidation and inflammation. Curcumin exerts anticancer effects primarily by activating apoptotic pathways in cancer cells and inhibiting pro‑cancer processes, including inflammation, angiogenesis and metastasis. Curcumin targets numerous signaling pathways associated with cancer therapy, including pathways mediated by p53, Ras, phosphatidylinositol‑3‑kinase, protein kinase B, Wnt‑β catenin and mammalian target of rapamycin. Clinical studies have demonstrated that curcumin alone or combined with other drugs exhibits promising anticancer activity in patients with breast cancer without adverse effects. In the present review, the chemistry and bioavailability of curcumin and its molecular targets in breast cancer are discussed. Future research directions are discussed to further understand this promising natural product.

Keywords: breast cancer; curcumin; molecular targets; metabolism; bioavailability; transcription factors; signaling pathway.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Curcumin / pharmacology*
  • Curcumin / therapeutic use*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Curcumin