• curcumin;
  • oxaliplatin;
  • colorectal cancer;
  • drug combinations


Colorectal cancer remains a leading cause of cancer death worldwide, despite markedly improved response rates to current systemic therapies. Oxaliplatin either alone or incorporated into 5-fluorouracil/leucovorin regimes has resulted in increased survival rates, particularly with regards to metastatic colorectal carcinoma. The chemopreventive polyphenol curcumin, which is currently in clinical trial, has been advocated for use in colorectal cancer either singly or in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs. In this study, the antiproliferative capacity of both compounds was compared in HCEC (normal-derived), HT29 (p53 mutant adenocarcinoma) and HCT116 (p53wt adenocarcinoma) colorectal cell lines to determine whether effects were cell-type specific at pharmacologically achievable doses, and whether the combination resulted in enhanced efficacy. Both oxaliplatin and curcumin displayed marked antiproliferative capacity at therapeutic concentrations in the two tumor cell lines. Order of sensitivity to oxaliplatin was HCT116>HT29>HCEC, whereas order of sensitivity to curcumin was HT29>HCT116>HCEC. HCT116 cells underwent induction of G2/M arrest in response to both oxaliplatin (irreversible) and curcumin (reversible). Apoptosis was induced by both agents, and up to 16-fold induction of p53 protein was observed in response to the combination. Antiproliferative effects in HT29 cells were largely cell cycle independent, and were mediated by induction of apoptosis. Effects were greatly enhanced in both cell lines when agents were combined. This study provides further evidence that curcumin may be of use in therapeutic regimes directed against colorectal cancer, and suggests that in combination with oxaliplatin it may enhance efficacy of the latter in both p53wt and p53 mutant colorectal tumors. © 2007 Wiley-Liss, Inc.