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Upregulation of extrinsic apoptotic pathway in curcumin-mediated antiproliferative effect on human pancreatic carcinogenesis


  • Mahmoud Youns,

    Corresponding author
    1. Department of Functional Genome Analysis, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Im Neuenheimer Feld 580, Heidelberg, Germany
    2. Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt
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  • Gihan Mahmoud Fathy

    1. Faculty of Pharmacy, Department of Pharmaceutics and Industrial Pharmacy, Helwan University, Cairo, Egypt
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  • The Authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest to disclose.


Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal human cancers, with almost identical incidence and mortality rates. Curcumin, derived from the rhizome of Curcuma longa, has a long history of use as coloring agent and for a wide variety of disorders. Here, the antiproliferative activity of curcumin and its modulatory effect on gene expression of pancreatic cancer cell lines were investigated. The effect of curcumin on cellular proliferation and viability was monitored by sulphurhodamine B assay. Apoptotic effect was evaluated by flow cytometry and further confirmed by measuring amount of cytoplasmic histone-associated DNA fragments. Analysis of gene expression was performed with and without curcumin treatment using microarray expression profiling techniques. Array results were confirmed by real-time PCR. ingenuity pathway analysis (IPA) has been used to classify the list of differentially expressed genes and to indentify common biomarkergenes modulating the chemopreventive effect of curcumin. Results showed that curcumin induces growth arrest and apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cell lines. Its effect was more obvious on the highly COX-2 expressing cell line. Additionally, the expression of 366 and 356 cancer-related genes, involved in regulation of apoptosis, cell cycle, metastasis, was significantly altered after curcumin treatment in BxPC-3 and MiaPaCa-2 cells, respectively. Our results suggested that up-regulation of the extrinsic apoptotic pathway was among signaling pathways modulating the growth inhibitory effects of curcumin on pancreatic cancer cells. Curcumin effect was mediated through activation of TNFR, CASP 8, CASP3, BID, BAX, and down-regulation of NFκB, NDRG 1, and BCL2L10 genes. J. Cell. Biochem. 114: 2654–2665, 2013. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.