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01.12.2017 | Primary Research | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Cancer Cell International 1/2017

Curcumin reduces mitomycin C resistance in breast cancer stem cells by regulating Bcl-2 family-mediated apoptosis

Cancer Cell International > Ausgabe 1/2017
Qian-Mei Zhou, Yang Sun, Yi-Yu Lu, Hui Zhang, Qi-Long Chen, Shi-Bing Su



Curcumin, a natural compound derived from the turmeric rhizome Curcuma longa Linn, has anticancer and chemoresistance reduction biological activities. We evaluated the efficacy of curcumin in sensitizing chemotherapy drugs through regulation of Bcl-2-mediated apoptosis in breast cancer stem-like cells (BCSCs).


Cell survival was measured using MTT assay. Apoptosis-related proteins were observed using western blot analysis. Apoptosis was detected with flow cytometric analysis and by Hoechst 33258 staining. The mitochondrial membrane potential was observed with flow cytometric analysis.


The ability of BCSCs to propagate decreased gradually along the passages and was completely lost at the fifth passage [0.1 μmol/L mitomycin C (MMC) with 5 μmol/L curcumin in MCF-7 and 0.5 μmol/L MMC with 5 μmol/L curcumin in MDA-MB-231 cells]. Curcumin combined with MMC treatment significantly decreased the levels of antiapoptotic Bcl-2 and Bcl-w expression, increased the levels of proapoptotic Bax, Bak, Bad, Bik, and Bim expression, and activated caspase-3 and caspase-9 in MCF-7 BCSCs. In the presence of Bcl-2 siRNA, the apoptosis rate increased by 15% in cells treated with curcumin and MMC. The mitochondrial membrane potential decreased by approximately 20% in MCF-7 BCSCs undergoing the combination treatment of curcumin and MMC. The combination-induced decrease in Bcl-2 was regulated by the presence of the Wnt-specific inhibitor PFK115-584 and PI3k inhibitor LY294002.


Our study indicates that curcumin might represent a novel therapeutic agent for treating breast cancer chemoresistance induced by MMC.
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