Curcumin Modulates the Radiosensitivity of Colorectal Cancer Cells by Suppressing Constitutive and Inducible NF-κB Activity

Santosh K. Sandur, Amit Deorukhkar, Manoj K. Pandey, Ana María Pabón, Shujun Shentu, Sushovan Guha, Bharat B. Aggarwal, Sunil Krishnan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

141 Scopus citations


Purpose: Radiation therapy is an integral part of the preoperative treatment of rectal cancers. However, only a minority of patients achieve a complete pathologic response to therapy because of resistance of these tumors to radiation therapy. This resistance may be mediated by constitutively active pro-survival signaling pathways or by inducible/acquired mechanisms in response to radiation therapy. Simultaneous inhibition of these pathways can sensitize these tumors to radiation therapy. Methods and Materials: Human colorectal cancer cells were exposed to clinically relevant doses of gamma rays, and the mechanism of their radioresistance was investigated. We characterized the transcription factor nuclear factor-κB (NF-κB) activation as a mechanism of inducible radioresistance in colorectal cancer and used curcumin, the active ingredient in the yellow spice turmeric, to overcome this resistance. Results: Curcumin inhibited the proliferation and the post-irradiation clonogenic survival of multiple colorectal cancer cell lines. Radiation stimulated NF-κB activity in a dose- and time-dependent manner, whereas curcumin suppressed this radiation-induced NF-κB activation via inhibition of radiation-induced phosphorylation and degradation of inhibitor of κB alpha, inhibition of inhibitor of κB kinase activity, and inhibition of Akt phosphorylation. Curcumin also suppressed NF-κB-regulated gene products (Bcl-2, Bcl-xL, inhibitor of apoptosis protein-2, cyclooxygenase-2, and cyclin D1). Conclusions: Our results suggest that transient inducible NF-κB activation provides a prosurvival response to radiation that may account for development of radioresistance. Curcumin blocks this signaling pathway and potentiates the antitumor effects of radiation therapy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)534-542
Number of pages9
JournalInternational Journal of Radiation Oncology Biology Physics
Issue number2
StatePublished - Oct 1 2009
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Radiation
  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cancer Research


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